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Grafton outlasts Byrd, 20-13

by Chris Errington


GRAFTON -- The "Cardiac Cats" were back -- at least for one night.

Jeff Lambert's two fourth-quarter touchdown passes rallied Grafton from a 13-7 deficit, and its defense held Scott Ross a yard short on fourth down at the Bearcats' 7 as Grafton defeated Robert C. Byrd 20-13.

"The last couple of games we've lost in the fourth quarter, but tonight the kids made the big plays like they used to," Grafton coach Mike Skinner said. "I'm just so proud of the way these kids kept fighting. This was a big win for our football program."

Lambert, who watched former Grafton quarterback Bryan Gillespie engineer numerous come-from-behind wins a year ago, was nearly unstoppable.

Overcoming a running game held to 1 yard on 13 carries, Lambert kept the Bearcats moving through the air. He finished the game 14-of-24 for 270 yards and all three of Grafton's touchdowns. But two of his passes wound up winning the game.

The first came with Robert C. Byrd leading 13-7 early in the fourth quarter. Lambert hit Matt Moats with a pass deep in the left flat that the running back carried for a 36-yard score.

"We knew (Robert C. Byrd) played a lot of 4-4, 5-3 defensive fronts, so we knew we wouldn't be able to run. But we did know we would be able to pass on them," Lambert said. "We just wanted to take advantage of that."

On Grafton's next possession, Lambert did just that and it cost the Eagles the game.

Against man-to-man defense, wingback Matt Davis ran a hitch-and-go, and when the defender bit on the fake, Davis sprang wide open. Lambert hit him with a perfect pass, and Davis was all alone for a 52-yard touchdown.

Still, Robert C. Byrd had more than 9 minutes remaining after the score and began its potential game-tying drive at its 31. Fifteen plays later -- 14 of which were runs -- the Eagles faced a fourth-and-3 from the Grafton 7 with 1:19 remaining.

Ross, who finished with a game-high 72 yards on 15 carries, ran off tackle right, but was stopped a yard short at the 5 by Ben Grogg.

From there, Grafton (1-3) ran out the clock but ironically needed Mike Snider's 5-yard run on third down to secure the win.

It was the Bearcats' longest run of the game.

"We've been getting better every game, and tonight we got a little better in each phase of the game," Skinner said. "When we needed to pass we were able to. And when we needed a big run, the kids got that, too."

Robert C. Byrd got 4-yard touchdown runs from Max Williams in the first quarter and Ross in the third quarter to take its late lead. The Eagles finished with 229 yards rushing on 57 carries.

Ben Grogg got Grafton on the board with a 40-yard pass from Lambert late in the first half.