T-Bird nation was no doubt disappointed in the outcome Thursday night as Skyline tried to avoid a winless season, taking on the Kinsley Coyotes in the season's final game.
But no one in attendance would fault the T-Birds effort as they fell to the visitors 60-42.
Led by the senior class both verbally and by example, the Skyliners fought tooth and nail, giving it everything they had but just coming up a little bit short.
"Brandon Baird is such a leader," head coach Jon Novotny mentioned. "He had the kids fired up in the locker room with his words, and his hard work on the field was inspirational."
"And Sam Howell had a bad shoulder," Novotny continued, "but he wanted to play. I couldn't get him out of there on defense."
The Thunderbirds showed they had come to play by taking the opening kickoff and driving it down Kinsley's throat for a score, Baird plunging the final 3 yards to put Skyline up 8-0 at 7:26.
The main problem for Skyline on the night was their inability to rein in Kinsley's offense. As evidence, less than a minute later, Tyson Espinosa turned in the first of the numerous 40 yard TD scampers that he would put up. The first quarter ended 8-8.
The second quarter proved to be the T-Birds downfall as they practically matched the Coyotes scoring output in the other 3 quarters combined..
Kinsley scored 3 times in Q2, sandwiched around a Skyline 3-and- out and a Skyline turnover. There were two more Espinosa 40 yard TD runs and a 4th and 7 screen pass that went the distance for Kinsley.
Trailing 30-8 with 4:05 left in the first half, Skyline pulled out all the stops. Aided by a couple of 4th down conversions including a successful fake punt, the Thunderbirds cut the gap with 15 seconds left in the half on a 20 yard TD pass to Brandon Abbott from Dustin Weber.
Espinosa rattled off another 40 yard TD run just a minute into the 3rd quarter, but the rest of the stanza belonged to Skyline. Baird had a 17 yard TD in which he broke numerous tackles and a 3 yard plunge to get Skyline to within 36-30 as the 3rd quarter expired. It was as close as the T-Birds would get, however.
Coyote Gustavo Chavez caught a 45 yd TD pass to open the final period. Skyline tried to keep pace. At 8:22 of the 4th quarter, after a long drive featuring Baird runs, Baird converted his 4th TD to bring the score to 44-36. With 2:25 left, Espinosa put up yet another 40 yard TD run to increase the Kinsley lead to 52-36.
Still the T-Birds would not capitulate. On a 4th down, Skyline pulled out a reverse-pass play from Cole Patterson to Blake Lee that gave them a first down in the red zone. From there, Cole Patterson would eventually score from 2 yards out to make it 52-42. As time ran down, Kinsley added a cosmetic score on a touchdown pass that established the final margin at 60-42.
Page 2 of 2 - "We worked our tails off," Coach Novotny said. "We just couldn't get Kinsley stopped. We had some assignment misreads. Sometimes our contain wasn't physical enough, or our safety couldn't get off the block."
Though the outcome was disappointing, it was an inspirational effort by the Thunderbirds, proving that even a winless season could not dampen their spirit.
RUSHING: Baird 41/208/4 TDs; Weber 18/57; Patterson 3/12/ 1 TD; Lee 1/8
RECEIVING: Lee 1/30; Patterson 4/22; Abbott 2/31/ 1TD; Baird 2/22; Simar 1/8
PASSING: Patterson 2/3/18; Weber 6/12/1 int/I TD; Baird 2/4/17
Skyline 8 6 16 12 42
Kinsley 8 22 6 24 60