For The Duncan Banner
Empire learnd Friday what life is like when the Price isn't right.
With injured linebacker Stephen Price sidelined, the center of Empire's defense all too often split open and Dibble runners came on down the middle aisle en route to a 38-20 victory at Ric Johnson Memorial Stadium.
Price, a senior capitan, missed the final non-district tilt Friday because of sprained muscles in his lower right leg.
The 5-foot-8, 185-pounder was one of Empire's leading tacklers through the first two games of 2013 and gained nearly 300 yards and scored three touchdowns as a tailback.
He initially hurt the leg five weeks ago during the Bulldogs' first preseason scrimmage, and he reaggravated it last week during the second quarter of Empire's win over Maysville.
The "Mini-Fridge," as Price is called, planted his right leg to make a sideline block and further pulled the muscles ranging from just above the anke to mid-shin. He sat out the second half of the Maysville game and visited the doctor Monday, but the leg didn't heal enough for him to play Friday.
Price, who broke his right fibula as a sophomore, has missed six games during his high school career. Empire is 1-5 in those games.
With the latest loss, the Bulldogs fell to 2-1 and will travel to Rush Springs for the district opener Friday. Dibble, which lost two players with broken legs during the contest, rose to 3-0 and will travel to Luther for its first conference game Friday.
"It hurt us tremendously," Empire head coach Tony Robers said of Price's absence. "It hurts anytime you have a player of his ability missing, but we had our chances. They made more big plays than we did."
Without Price roaming the middle, Dibble averaged 8.26 yard per play over 46 offensive snaps and dominated the time of posession in building a first quarter lead it wouldn't reliquish.
Empire touched the ball just twice in the first quarter. Its first drive stalled on the Dibble 26 and it didn't get the ball back until the last play of the quarter. In-between, the Demons pieced together a seven-play scoring drive, then recovered a squib kick, and marched 11 plays to paydirt again.
Before Empire's offense could even settle in, the Bulldogs trailed 16-0.
"It seemed like every play they made was big," Roberts said.
However, the Bulldogs answered with a scoring drive of their own on the next series and then traded touchdowns with the Demons to remain within striking distance, 22-14, at half.
Empire scored on its first series of the second half, marching 92 yards in just eight plays. A 15-yard facemask penalty against Dibble and a 16-yard pass from Twigg to Cooper Hill highlighted the drive. Twigg capped the march on a 1-yard dive that cut the deficit to 2.
But Dibble awoke and controlled the rest of the game. The Demons scored on their next two series to ice it.