The Hamburg Lions lost their season opener in a close battle in Ashdown on Friday night.

“Even though we lost a tough game, I want to start by saying how proud I am of our team for leaving everything on the field. It was a blast to be able to play the game we love, and we are thankful for that opportunity,” Coach Cecil Ray Cossey said.  

There were a few times the night didn’t go quite like Cossey hoped, but he said he is very proud of his team’s effort.

“I hate losing as much as anyone, and there are a few plays that I wish could have gone the other way and probably would have changed the outcome of the game, but, once again, I am proud of our effort,” he said.

The Panthers put the first touchown on the board, but Brett Rice threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nick McNeil to give the Lions six points. The extra point kick was good and the score was tied seven-all.

The Panthers put another six points up to make the score 13-7.

Rice threw a short pass to Armodd Taylor, who ran it from around the forty yard line all the way to the Lion 20. This set the Lions up for a short pass to Bruin Barnes for another Lion touchdown.

The extra point kick put the Lions in the lead 14-13.

In the third quarter, Ashdown held the Lions to no score while the Panthers were able to not only get in a touchdown, but a two-point conversion to go with it. The third quarter score was 21-14 with Ashdown on top. In the fourth quarter, the Lions were able to get another touchdown in to give them 20, but Ashdown scored again as well, making the final 28-20.

“Special teams probably cost us the game, and the blame for that falls squarely on me,” Cossey said.  The coaching staff tried to add as much special teams practice time as possible these past two weeks, but Cossey said it was not enough. 

“Not being able to scrimmage Junction City and losing our Thursday walkthrough due to the hurricane did not make it any easier on us,” he said.  “But, we are not going to sit around and cry over spilled milk. It is time to move forward, get to work, and get better. Conference is only four weeks away.”

 The team is behind where they would normally be at this time in a normal year, he said.

“So, there’s real work to be done. My expectations for this group of seniors have not changed,” Cossey said.  The Hamburg coaching staff stands behind the main goal which is to win the conference and be playing after Thanksgiving. 

“I believe we can achieve both of those,” Cossey said.

The Lions are now 0-1 as they prepare to host the Forrest City Mustangs at Campbell Field on Friday.

“Forrest City is very fast. They are very athletic. And, we expect them to be much improved from last week, “ Cossey said. 

The Mustangs are also 0-1 so far this season after losing to Star City 42-6 last week. 

“Star City played an outstanding game and really made Forrest City look much worse than they are.” 

The Lions will spend this week working to improve special teams and work to cleanup on offense especially the line.

“ We are preparing for Forrest City, but the focus of this week and all non-conference weeks around here is always improving us. We have a lot to improve on before we can really start focusing on other teams,” Cossey said.  

The defense played very well, he said, but needs to finish stronger this week. 

“Our offense had some bright spots but way too many negative plays,” he said.  

The Lions have four starting offensive linemen that are either ninth or 10th graders. 

“So, four of our five starters on the line were playing JR High football this time last year,” he said. “They had some bright spots but must get more consistent moving forward.”

Forrest City plays in the 5A East Conference. Last year they finished the season 8-3 overall and 6-1 in their conference.

Kick-off is at 7 p.m. Friday night. The junior high team will face the Crossett Eagles on Thursday night. Coaches and school administration asks that everyone follow social distancing guidelines when attending sporting events.

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