RAEFORD — After watching his team lose 20-17 at Hoke County on Friday night, Purnell Swett football coach Jon Sherman took “100 percent” of the blame.
Leading 14-12 with 1:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Rams faced a third-and-goal situation and opted to go for the score instead of running the clock down. After Brayan Azua’s field goal extended the lead to 17-12, Hoke’s Dakwan Hendley took the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to give the Bucks their first lead of the game.
“All in all, it comes down to me making a better decision on that kickoff and on 3rd-and-goal,” Sherman said. “It all falls on me, 100 percent.”
The Rams (3-6, 0-3 SEC) drove the ball to the Hoke 33-yard line following the go-ahead score, but Azua’s kick was short and wide left as time expired. The Bucks (2-7, 1-2 SEC) outscored Purnell Swett 14-3 in the final quarter to earn their first conference win of the season, handing the Rams their fourth straight loss.
“It’s on me, but we can’t let the kickoff return happen for a touchdown,” Sherman said. “That’s on me for not squibbing it. That third-and-goal (call) is on me. I took it out of the hands of my (offensive coordinator) and that’s my fault for not giving him the freedom to do what he needs to do. I’ll take that on the chin. I should have done a better job.”
Both teams were plagued by penalties throughout the night and combined for six turnovers. The Rams took their biggest lead with 32 seconds left in the third quarter on a 96-yard interception return by Jessup Oxendine to make it 14-6, but Hoke’s Quinn Maynor scored two minutes into the final quarter on a 1-yard run, trimming the lead to 14-12.
Sherman also pointed to missed opportunities that helped the Bucks “hang around.”
“We made some big plays and we made some bad plays,” he said. “We would get the ball and then fumble or have our coverages set and give up a big play. That can’t happen.”
Purnell Swett jumped out to an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 5-yard run by Al’Drique Thompson and held on for a 7-6 advantage at the break.
The Rams will look to bounce back next week when they travel to rival Lumberton.
“I thought our kids had guts, driving down to a point where we’ve made those field goals before,” Sherman said. “Now, we have two games left to see what happens in getting an at-large bid (in the playoffs).”
Rodd Baxley can be reached on Twitter @RoddBaxley.