SULPHUR — Sulphur quarterback Robert Thomas fell just short on a two-point conversion attempt with 49 seconds left, and Pauls Valley withstood a furious Bulldog comeback in the closing minutes to escape with a tense 35-34 victory Friday night.

Pauls Valley (2-3) rallied from a 14-6 second-quarter deficit to grab a 35-21 lead on Tyler Harding’s 53-yard run with 9:20 to play before Thomas drove the Sulphur offense to two touchdowns in the space of just over two minutes.

Sophomore Logan Grinstead — subbing for injured senior Jason Lee at tailback — capped a long drive with his first varsity touchdown from two yards out with 2:58 remaining, then Sulphur recovered an on-side kick but Pauls Valley kept possession when the officials ruled a Bulldog player had touched the ball before it went 10 yards.

Another sophomore, Zac Swarz, recovered a Pauls Valley fumble a couple of plays later, however, launching Sulphur on a last-ditch drive to the potential tying touchdown. The Bulldogs moved down the field on the passing of Thomas and, with the help of a pass interference penalty, scored on Grinstead’s second touchdown from four yards out with 49 seconds to play.

Faced with going to overtime against an offense that his injury-riddled defense (the Bulldogs started six sophomores and had four starters out with injuries on defense) had barely slowed down all night, Sulphur coach Jim Dixon opted to try to win the game in regulation, but Thomas was stopped just short of the goal line after taking a snap out of shotgun formation.

The loss was the second straight and third in five outings for the Bulldogs, who dropped out of the Top 10 for the first time in five years with last week’s loss to Plainview and fell to 0-2 in District 3A-2 play with Friday’s defeat. Sulphur will travel to Madill Friday before returning home to face fourth-ranked (Class 3A) Marlow on Oct. 13.

Lee, who finished with 125 yards on 31 tough carries before being injured in the fourth quarter, gave Sulphur an early 7-0 lead on a three-yard run midway through the first quarter, but Pauls Valley quarterback William Wright began when turned into a career night when he hit Josh Rolan on a 47-yard touchdown pass in the opening seconds of the second period.

Thomas came back to give the Bulldogs their last lead of the night on an 11-yard run with 4:48 left in the half to make it 14-7, then Wright answered with a 31-yard run just over a minute later to tie the game at intermission.

Trinton Johnson — who gained 97 yards on just seven attempts as part of a Pauls Valley ground game that accounted for 348 yards and averaged over 10.5 yards per carry — gave the Panthers their first lead on a 12-yard pass from Wright early in the third quarter. After Lee tied the score for the final time on a one-yard run with 4:45 left in the period, Wright scored from 15 yards out to put Pauls Valley back on top wih 1:33 remaining in the third quarter, and Harding’s long run made it 35-21 early in the fourth before Sulphur mounted its comeback

Thomas rushed for 144 yards on 19 carries and threw for another 79 yards, and Lee had his fourth 100-yard rushing night of the season, but the Pauls Valley offense was just too much for the young Sulphur defense. In addition to Johnson’s big night, Wright finished with 100 yards on 14 carries, Dustin Lasell had 84 yards on just six tries and Harding finished with 67 yards on just four carries

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