Wildcat comeback falls one-yard short as Schley edged by Eagles 22-21
By MICHAEL MURRAY
CAMILLA – The Schley County Wildcats fell just one yard short of advancing in the state playoffs on the evening of Nov. 17. Facing the Mitchell County Eagles in a bitter, back-and-forth battle, the Wildcats saw their hopes of continuing in the post-season dashed when a last-ditch effort to put the game away fell one-yard short, securing a 22-21 victory for the Eagles.
With the defeat, the Wildcats complete their 2017 campaign with an overall record of 8-4. The Eagles jumped to 10-1 at the game’s conclusion.
The match-up at Centennial Field got off to a bit of a slow start as the teams duked it out throughout the initial frame. Despite strong efforts from both sides, neither team managed to score over the initial 12 minutes of play, as their defenses stubbornly refused to cede any ground.
The Eagles made an attempt to light up the scoreboard in the first quarter with a field goal, but the kick was errant and the ball was returned to the Wildcats.
The second frame, however, was a completely different story.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Mitchell County running back, Anthony Mcintyre, was able to rush for the game’s first touchdown from the Schley County five-yard line. With a successful Pat kick, the Eagles took an early 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats looked to answer on their return drive, but a determined Mitchell defense held the Schley squad to only four downs, forcing Schley’s Lucas Sellars to punt the ball to their opponents’ 22.
Two plays into the Eagles’ progress, the Wildcats turned the tide of the game, sparked by a tackle for loss executed by Tra Sampson. On the following down, Schley’s Zykievious Walker plowed his way into the backfield to cause an Eagle fumble, which he immediately jumped onto.
Back in possession of the ball deep in their enemies’ red zone, the Wildcats utilized a series of rushes by James Baker, the third of which landed the team in the end zone.
After a false start was called on the defense during the Pat attempt, Schley head coach, Darren Alford, opted to go for a two-point conversion and, potentially, give the Wildcats an edge.
Schley’s Calvin Sims took the ball on the two-pointer attempt, breaking the plane and putting the Wildcats up 8-7 with 2:15 remaining in the first half.
The Wildcats held the Eagles to only four downs on their return thanks, in part, to an eight-yard sack executed by Walker and an Eagle penalty. The Eagles were forced to punt from their own 13.
With less than a minute to play before the break, the Wildcats tried to beat the clock add some padding to their lead, but were unable to get anything going in the final seconds of the half.
The Schley squad took their 8-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Eagles wasted no time getting the ball rolling when they returned to the field to retake the lead after an eight-play drive that netted the hosts another touchdown, though their progress was slowed by hard tackles from Schley’s Trent Bivins and Alec Harris.
The Eagles held the Wildcats to three and out on their return and the Schley crew returned the favor four plays later. As the Eagle punter booted the ball, one of the Wildcats got a hand on it, deflecting it to the ground, where Schley’s Derric Tatum jumped on it at the Mitchell three-yard line. From there, Baker went the distance and Schley place kicker, William Blackwell tacked on a PAT to tie the score 15-15 late in the third quarter.
The teams traded possession four more times before the Eagles saw the chance to strike again when Mcintyre, once again, showed off his speed to rush for a 54-yard touchdown. Another successful PAT left the hosts up 22-15 with 1:45 left to play.
Unwilling to give up, the Wildcats took off on a drive that spanned 59 yards, highlighted by a Jakim Williamson-Hart reception and a series of rushes by Baker. With 20 seconds on the clock, Schley’s Ja’Myron Clayton ran the ball into the end zone from the 13-yard line to put the ‘Cats within comeback range.
After much deliberation, the Wildcats opted to try and put the game away with a two-point conversion.
Sims took the handoff and plowed his way up the gut, but was stopped one yard short, leaving the Wildcats trailing 22-21 at the game’s conclusion.
With the defeat, the Wildcats draw the curtain on what has been one of their most exciting seasons in recent memory.