It didn’t take long for bad to go to worse for the Branson High School football team on Friday night.
The Pirates have been decimated by injuries all season, with key players on both sides of the ball missing significant amounts of playing time.
On Senior Night against Carl Junction, the Pirates entered the game without the services of starting quarterback Dalton Muenchau. A broken finger on his passing hand will require surgery and keep him out for the rest of the season.
Then senior running back Jay Hill, the team’s top offensive threat and among the area’s leaders in rushing yards, was forced out after two carries.
Hill had missed two full games and parts of two more with an ankle injury, and it was aggravated in the early going on Friday night against the Bulldogs.
The result? The short-handed Pirates dropped a 36-7 decision to Carl Junction, suffering their seventh consecutive loss and falling to 1-7 overall.
Even with the injuries, Branson had its chances, coach Anthony Hays said.
It started with a scoring drive midway through the opening quarter for the Pirates, ending in a 2-yard touchdown from Stephen Derks.
There were other chances for the Branson offense to put points on the board.
“They made a lot of good adjustments to what we were doing,” Hays said. “We had about three big-play opportunities that we overthrew an open receiver or just missed. I thought our defense played really well against the run, we just gave up a few big plays that hurt us.”
Branson finished with only 109 yards of total offense, 57 through the air from Tristian Pierce as he completed 7-of-18 passes. Payton McCormick was the team’s top ground-gainer, rushing for 22 yards on 11 tries.
More problematic were three turnovers and a safety, consistently sidetracking Branson’s offense and helping Carl Junction score the game’s final 36 points.
“That’s really the story of the game,” Hays said. “There were a lot of little things here and there, but we turned it over at inopportune times, and that’s what the game came down to.”
The Pirates are essentially locked into a first-round district game against Republic in a rematch of a Week 1 contest. Branson won that game, 42-29.
First up comes a trip to play a Willard team that is 3-5 and snapped a three-game losing streak with a 28-7 victory at Neosho on Friday.
It will give the Pirates one last chance to build some momentum before the playoffs begin.
“That’s going to be the message all week, to finish the regular season strong and have some new life for next week,” Hays said. “We’re not going to be negative, we’ll focus on what we want to accomplish and can still accomplish.
“I think we are capable of going up there and competing hard and doing some good things. Then next week, the new season starts.”