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Timmy King’s blank stare was as cold as the ice bag numbing his right knee. Bronson’s senior lineman was injured during the first quarter of Friday’s 51-20 loss at Bell. It dropped the Eagles to 0-9 on the season.
King sat mostly motionless during the second half, perhaps realizing his high school football career was over from what appeared to be a severe injury. He’d glance at the field only to watch plays, but his eyes would quickly return to the ground.
King, who played center, defensive tackle and deep snapper, was the heart and soul of the team. The team's captain gave everything he had every single play.
Would King have made up the difference in the 31-point loss? Maybe. Maybe not. No one will ever know. However, his absence was felt in terms of leadership and in the countless shotgun snaps over quarterback Ben Landon’s head. Landon, a senior as well, somehow managed to scoop up the errant snaps and get off passes, even completing a couple, instead of suffering huge losses each time the ball sailed over his outstretched arms.
“When Timmy went down, it changed a lot of things,” said Bronson coach Al Cooksey. “He’s our leader, and it hurt having him go out so early, especially when we were on offense because he's our center.”
Injuries have hampered the Eagles' 2011 season. Lineman Justin Godkin didn’t play and tight end/defensive end Devin Thomas only played a few snaps. Notwithstanding, it was a game where Bronson was as close to full strength as it had been for most of the season with the return of starting running back/safety Brock Brower, who had missed six games with a knee injury. It was a game the Eagles believed they had a shot at winning, but King’s injury coupled with a slow start had shoulders slumped and heads hanging low when the Bulldogs began building a big third quarter lead.
“We’re still beat up and we’ve had so many different injuries to so many different players that it’s hard to keep up,” Cooksey said.
Bell took a 13-0 lead behind a powerful performance by Jeremey Zimmerman, who scored on a nine-yard run and a 52-yard reception on a screen pass in the first quarter.
Allen Burks recovered a Bell fumble at the Bulldogs' six-yard line to set up a quick Eagles’ score, but it didn't come easily. After a five-yard run by Brower to the one-yard line on first down, Landon was stopped short of the goal line on back-to-back quarterback sneaks that he usually would have been running behind King's consistent blocking. On fourth down with about a foot to go, Landon finally pushed it across to cut the deficit to 13-6 with 2:46 remaining in the half.
“Ben was a warrior, always is,” Cooksey said. “He hurt his elbow and I probably should have taken him out, but he didn’t want to come out. He’s tough as he can be. I love Ben.”
Bell answered on the ensuing kickoff with 71-yard touchdown return. Then on Bronson’s next possession, Bell wisely used timeouts after each play to save enough clock time to try to put more points on the board before intermission. It worked as the Bulldogs got the ball back with just under two minutes remaining, but it turned out they didn’t need that much time as Austin Godwin bolted 54-yards for a touchdown on the first play of the possession to increase Bell’s lead to 26-6.
With the help of a personal foul penalty and a long pass from Landon to Tyler Beauchamp, Bronson quickly moved within scoring position with less than a minute to go in the first half. Another Bell penalty as time expired gave the Eagles’ one, un-timed play from inside the 10-yard line. However, Landon’s pass was just off of Burks’ fingertips in the back of the end zone.
“If our tight end catches that ball then it’s a big, big play for us right before halftime,” Cooksey said. “But that changes momentum and we needed to have it going into the second half. Little plays like that kills an 0-8 team.”
Bell added to its lead with two more touchdown runs by Zimmerman to start the second half. Bronson received a kickoff return to midfield by Brower and made the most of its after some hard-running by Landon and Frank Gay led to a 6-yard touchdown run by Brower that made it 39-12 with 3:12 to go in the third quarter.
Bronson then stole momentum momentarily when Josh Frazier recovered on onside kick. A 27-yard run by Landon and more tough runs by Gay and Brower allowed the Eagles to quickly advance downfield while operating a no-huddle offense. Gay’s two-yard touchdown run capped the drive off and made the score 39-20 with 1:01 remaining in the third.
However, two more touchdowns by Zimmerman and an interception sealed Bell’s victory midway through the fourth quarter
“We came out a little flat, but picked it up there (late in the third),” Cooksey said. “We’ve tried everything to get them fired up and we showed some fight as we always do. But the last three games, they’ve played to the level of our competition.”
King gathered up a pair of crutches that had been given to him as the final seconds ticked away. Someone yelled from the stands, “Timmy! Hey Timmy!” but he didn’t respond. He clearly didn’t feel like talking. He just kept his blank stare at the ground a few feet in front of him as he crept away on crutches from what likely was his final football game.