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Nowhere to run
Hopes come up empty as Live Oak shut down at home by Durham
The signs of life for Live Oak came far too late.
The gutsy plays from the injured, back-up quarterback; the audible cheers from a crowd who shivered more than screamed for three quarters; the visible showing of swagger and confidence from the Lions football team, which finally started acting like a No. 1 seed, came when the team was already down two scores.
All of it arrived in the fourth quarter, and all were far too brief. This night belonged to Durham, and the second-seeded Trojans are the Northern Section Division III champions after shutting down Live Oak early and often in a 23-7 victory on Wednesday.
"I'd do anything I can to help get this team a championship," said Lions senior Tony Montes.
He, like many of the players and coaches, was choking back tears as he hobbled off the field, still feeling the pain from a lingering hamstring injury. Put in at quarterback after a first half where the Lions had no passing yards and 53 rushing yards, he helped lead the drive which gave Live Oak a flicker of belief.
On third and 20 with 10 minutes left in the game, Montes connected on a 19-yard strike to Anthony Alvarado for the first Lions' completion of the game. It keyed Live Oak's only substantial drive of the night, featuring a 36-yard rush from Kaleb Allen and ending with Montes completing a 5-yard jump pass to Zac Walker in the end zone.
"We tried," said visibly shaken Live Oak coach Dan Johnson as he walked off the field. "I'm proud of what they did in the fourth quarter."
Except for the final minute. Johnson's most poignant words for his players had nothing to do with the Lions' performance. He, along with assistant coach Tony Walton lectured the players for how the game ended: Called by the refs with 41.6 seconds left after a sea of flags for personal fouls near the Live Oak bench.
"All we have to be ashamed about is how we acted the last minute," Johnson said to his players. "I'm proud of how we played but not how we acted as human beings in the final minute."
The Trojans, while far from spectacular on offense, did more than enough against a Lions squad that sputtered through the first half. Quarterback Nelson Fishback, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound mass of frustration for the Lions threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another and the Trojans' defense forced a pair of safeties.
"You guys got that close," Johnson said to his players. "Tonight they played better ball than we did."