CALCUTTA - Five years of futility in the All-American Conference nearly came to an end for the Beavers.
Beaver Local pushed Canfield to the limit on Friday at Fighting Beavers Stadium, but in the end the Cardinals prevailed, 28-20.
The Beavers (1-3) were looking to end a 16-game skid in league play, but came up just short. Beaver Local, down by one score, had an opportunity in the game's final minutes. With 3:30 left to play and the ball 12 yards from the end zone, Beaver Local attempted three straight passes. All came up empty.
Beaver Local's Justin Osbourne fights for yards on Friday against Canfield. (Photo by Jimmy Joe Savage)
"Hats off to Canfield," Beaver Local coach Jeremy McElroy said. "They played tough and made plays when they had to. They took advantage of some of our little mistakes. Our kids fought hard and played to the end. I'm proud of them for that.
"We made some plays that were good. We just have to do the little things better. We made some things happen, but we have to execute just a little bit better."
The game was full of big plays for both teams and the momentum switched sides throughout the game.
Beaver Local got on the board first when Daniel Lattanzio recovered a Canfield fumble and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Beavers a 6-0 lead with 7:18 to play in the first quarter.
On the very next play, the kickoff, Canfield's Nick Annichenni returned the ball 91 yards for a touchdown giving the Cardinals a 7-6 lead midway through the first frame.
The momentum stayed with Canfield as they got their ground game going with Conner Kesner who broke through the Beaver Local line for a 36-yard score with 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Cardinals would extend their lead to 21-6 when quarterback Kimu Kim hooked up with Kyle Nagy on a 66-yard scoring strike with 8:08 left in the half.
The Beavers battled back and put up their own score before the break as Austin Brooks found Justin Osbourne down the sideline for a 35-yard touchdown with just 30 seconds left on the clock.
A two-point conversion run by Phillip Beohm sent the Beavers into halftime trailing, 21-14.
The momentum went back and forth seemingly on each play in the second half.
The half started with Beaver Local's Morley Marsden recovering the opening kickoff.
However, the drive ended quickly when Canfield's Alec Buchenic intercepted Brooks' pass near midfield.
The Cardinal's drive stalled, though, and they found themselves in a 4th-and-13 on the Beavers' 27-yard line. A 26-yard pass from Kim to Natu Rusu kept the drive alive. On the very next play, Annichenni found the paydirt again from five yards out giving Canfield a 28-14 advantage with 8:51 to play in the third quarter.
That's where the score would stay until midway through the final frame as both teams found their drives stall.
Beaver Local took possession with 11:03 left to play on their own 12-yard line. Brooks connected with Beohm on a 46-yard pass on a 3rd-and-11 setting the Beavers up near midfield. Beaver Loacl would eventually work its way down to the Canfield 16-yard line.
That's where Brooks and Osbourne hooked up again for a scoring strike and the Beavers found themselves within one score, 28-20, with 7:35 left to play.
Canfield tried a fake punt on a 4th-and-4 on its next possession, but Beohm sniffed it out and made the big stop.
The Beavers turned to Thompkins again as he rattled off runs of 12- and 9-yards down to the 12-yard line of Canfield.
Three incomplete passes from second down on spelled trouble, however, as the Beavers came up empty.
"They were playing man defense and we were attacking that," McElroy said. "It wasn't a lack of space down there, we just didn't execute as good as we needed to."
The Beavers couldn't stop the Cardinals from running out the clock with 3:02 left to go. A 25-yard run by Annichenni and a 15-yard personal foul allowed Canfield to hold on for the win.
"We had to burn two timeouts earlier to get things straight," McElroy said. "That ended up hurting us on that final drive."
The Beavers never could get their running game on track. Thompkins finished with 45 yards on 12 carries, but Lattanzio and Beohm were bottled up and the Beavers managed just 58 yards on the ground.
They did get their aerial attack on point, however, passing for 170 yards and two scores. Brooks finished 10-of-16 passing for 137 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Beohm was 5-of-10 for 33 yards.
Canfield totaled 318 yards, 192 on the ground and 126 through the air. Annichenni finished with 65 yards rushing on 12 carries with a score to go along with his 91-yard kick return. Kesner tallied 72 yards on eight carries, Kim 61 on 14 attempts and Carter Rhodes had 43 yards on four rushes.
Kim was 6-of-8 passing for 126 yards and a touchdown.
The road doesn't get any easier for Beaver Local.
Next week has the Beavers playing at Niles McKinley which improved to 4-0 on Friday with a 33-28 win over Poland.
"We're becoming a better football team," McElroy said. "We had the best practice since I've been here this week. It's like gold mining. We're two inches away from gold, we just can't quit digging."
NOTES: Beaver Local is now 0-17 in five years of AAC play. They have been outscored, 525-95, in those games. ... This was the closest the Beavers have come to beating Canfield in the past five tries. Before Friday's game, Beaver Local had been outscored, 137-27, in the past four meetings.