The Carlisle Bison gave defending state champion Junction City all it wanted in the Class 2A state semifinals last week.
However, the Bison could never get that go-ahead score in the fourth quarter as they lost 38-28 to the Dragons to finish the season 12-2. Junction City will play Des Arc in the state championship game Saturday at noon at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
"With being so close, I feel for our kids and for how hard that they played," Carlisle coach Brandon Barbaree said. "One thing about this group, they never quit. Those guys just kept on fighting. There was a point when they were down 30-14 and you’re going that this may be it because you didn’t know. They kept fighting and they got the momentum. The kids are resilient and kept on playing hard and we had a chance."
After falling behind 22-8 at halftime, the Bison cut the deficit to 22-14 on a 34-yard run by Deron Ricks with 6:47 left in the third quarter. Junction City pushed the lead back to 16 at 30-14 on a 23-yard run by JaQwis Dancy with 4:03 left in the third quarter.
Carlisle got that score back on a 2-yard run by Ricks with 1:08 left in the third quarter, making the score 30-20.
The Bison pulled to with two at 30-28 on a two-yard run by Bo Weddle, who also scored the two-point conversion, with 9:06 left in the game.
Carlisle got the ball back and was inside Junction City territory. Ricks got hit on his left knee near the Dragon 35. He left the game with the injuryed leg and the Bison turned the ball over on downs.
Carlisle’s defense stiffened and got the ball back after using its three time outs. However, Carlisle quarterback Chase Brazeal had a pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown with 1:04 left in the game.
"We had a chance," Barbaree said. "That is all we can ask for. We just didn’t have enough at the end."
Carlisle linemen Colton Isbell suffered a concussion during the game.
"It was a tough, physical football game," Barbaree said. "I guess that is just part of it."
Carlisle took an 8-0 lead with 3:55 left in the first quarter on a 12-yard run by Ricks. Weddle added the two-point conversion.
Junction City tied the game at on a 58-yard pass on the next play from scrimmage.
Ricks led the Bison attack with 198 yards rushing on 38 carries. Weddle had 37 yards on 19 carries.
Junction City had 241 yards in total offense.
The loss was the final game for a group of seniors who won 35 games in three seasons.