Getting over the hump seems more and more like mountain-climbing for Countryside Coach Bob Stephens.
Despite playing perhaps their finest football of the year in the fourth quarter against non-district foe Lakeland Friday, the Cougars couldn't quite deliver the knockout punch, losing to the state's 12th-ranked team 21-14.
"I feel like Rocky," Stephens said after watching his team fall to 1-4 on the season. "We played extemely well. But we hang in there and hang in there and then just do something wrong somewhere."
The Cougars played just well enough to stay close for the first three quarters. Their only crucial mistake came late in the first when a Ryan Walsingham pass was picked off at the Dreadnaught 12 by Matt Fellows, who returned it all the way to the Countryside 23. Fullback Dale Terrell needed only two carries to punch it in and Lakeland led 6-0.
"That was a sophomore mistake. He just misread the coverage," Stephens said. That was about the only miscue his impressive young quarterback made all night.
It stood 6-0 until a five-minute flurry in the fourth quarter. Terrell (16 carries, 105 yards) capped a 72-yard drive when he slammed over from the 1. The two-point conversion made it 14-0, but the lead would be short-lived.
Clarence Brewton returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to the Lakeland 41. Two plays later, Brewton ran up the middle, cut outside and raced 27 yards for the score.
The Dreadnaughts then fumbled on their first play from scrimmage at their own 23 and the Cougars were in business again. This time Walsingham hit Randy Irick on a slant-in and Irick went 18 yards untouched. His point after tied it at 14.
But just 90 seconds later, Lakeland's Maceo Lewis _ filling in for Tom Sanders who pulled a hamstring earlier in the half _ took a handoff, got outside and went 32 yards to cap the scoring spree and keep the Dreadnaughts undefeated (4-0).
"Except for Tarpon Springs we've played well enough to win every game," Stephens said. "But we give up the big play."