by Brian Turrel
The classic Journey hit “Don’t Stop Believin'” played over the loudspeakers of the Turner District Athletic Complex at halftime of Friday’s homecoming football game — a perfect tune for a Golden Bears’ performance that had the players, coaches and fans all believing.
Hard-hitting defense and an opportunistic offense gave the Golden Bears a halftime 7-6 lead over the Topeka West Chargers, and they still held a lead late into the fourth quarter until West’s touchdown drive gave the Chargers a 26-21 lead and broke up the dreams of Turner’s first win in its new stadium.
The teams traded scoreless possessions in the first quarter, and Turner got on the board first two minutes into the second quarter on Xavier Wimer’s 2-yard touchdown run.
The score was set up by a 26-yard Wimer toss to Jaron Brown, who made a fantastic catch, reaching around the defensive back’s helmet to secure the ball and keep hold as he hit the turf.
Topeka West took advantage of a short Turner punt to put together a scoring drive just before halftime. West quarterback Malachi Berg ran in from nine yards out, but a failed extra point try left the Chargers down 7-6.
A third quarter interception and long runback by safety Diego Castillo set up another Bears’ touchdown. Running back Donovan Moore ran the ball from the 20 down to the 2-yard line, and Wimer punched it on with two consecutive keepers. A successful 2-point conversion gave the Bears a 15-6 lead going into the final quarter.
The Chargers scored two touchdowns in quick succession in the fourth quarter, the second one set up by a Bears fumble on their own 21-yard line. West failed both 2-point conversions and led 18-15 midway through the quarter.
Turner recovered the lead on another amazing catch by Brown, who snagged the ball after it was tipped by two West defenders and then raced to the end zone for a 60-yard score.
The Turner defense held Topeka West on downs and the Bears got the ball on their own 35 with under 6 minutes remaining but couldn’t make headway on offense.
A good punt by Turner pushed the Chargers to start at their own 28-yard line, but a long pass to the Turner 25 and then a quarterback run to the 2-yard line set the West offense up for the heartbreaking, lead-taking score.
After the game ended, some players were visibly emotional about the loss, when a win had been so close. Head coach Rick Byers consoled them, telling the gathered team that their hurt was a good sign because they cared about the game, and that their future successes would be that much sweeter because of the difficult times now.
The Turner Golden Bears will head to De Soto High School for next Friday’s match starting at 7 p.m.