Coming off a loss and playing without starting quarterback Matthew Caldwell, Auburn High saw its offense struggle out of the gate, but its defense kept them in the game and the Tigers eventually topped Park Crossing 44-28 at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.
“That was a great way to respond in the second half,” Auburn coach Adam Winegarden told Wings 94.3 after the game.
Auburn (7-3, 4-2) choose to defer after the old ‘tails never fails’ call worked out on the coin toss. The defense made sure they rewarded that faith and forced a fumble on the fourth snap of the game. Brad Harper scooped up the football and raced 20 yards the other way for a 7-0 lead.
Park Crossing (3-7, 3-2) answered quickly with a Trevor Robinson 8-yard touchdown pass to knot the game at 7-7 with 6:33 left in the first quarter.
The Thunderbird defense had its first chance to face the Tiger offense on the next drive and forced Auburn into a 3-and-out.
The Tiger defense had an answer though and forced another fumble, which Orlando Dean scooped up and took back 25 yards for the Tigers’ second scoop-and-score of the half. The extra point put Auburn up 14-7 with 3:38 left in the opening quarter.
Auburn’s defense continued to shine with an interception by senior Dantavious Thomas — the first of his career — to give the Tigers the ball for the second time of the night. The only problem was that they got the ball 99 yards from their own end zone. Another short drive and punt gave Park Crossing a short field.
Park Crossing committed its fourth turnover of the game on yet another fumble, but Auburn quarterback Patrick McGlon turned it right back over on the first play from scrimmage with an interception.
The Thunderbirds took advantage of another short field with a Robinson touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14 with 3:47 to play before half.
Desperately needing to give the defense a rest, McGlon and the Tiger offense responded with their best drive of the day. Senior running back Aaron Diggs started the drive with carries of three, 11 and 3 yards, and McGlon completed his first pass of the night with a 9-yard screen pass to Paxton Gordon on a third-and-7.
Facing a third-and-12, McGlon converted again and this time in a big way. The sophomore hit Zae Ray for a 45-yard touchdown with 58 seconds left in the half. The extra point put Auburn up 21-14 at halftime.
The Tiger offense continued its momentum on the first drive of the third quarter, and despite stalling out in Park Crossing territory, Josh Owsley gave Auburn its largest lead of the game at 24-14 with a 44-yard field goal.
A fourth fumble of the game gave Auburn the ball back. McGlon hit Ray again — this time for 47 yards — for a touchdown and a 31-14 lead with 4:26 left in the third quarter.
Park Crossing refused to go quietly into the Halloween night though, and Robinson threw long touchdown passes on the next two possessions — an 86 yarder to William Ford and a 32 yarder to Braxton Toliver.
Auburn answered with its running game, and Diggs capped the ensuing drive with an 11-yard touchdown run with 5:54 to go. The Thunderbirds blocked the extra point, and the Tigers settled for a nine-point lead.
On the next drive, Diggs put the game away with a 33-yard touchdown run. A converted extra point put Auburn up 44-28 with less than three minutes to play. Diggs finished with 160 yards on the ground.
Auburn does not know who they will play next week, but they know they will be at home for the first round of the playoffs next Friday at Duck Samford Stadium.
“I’m thankful for our team, and the season we’ve had,” Winegarden said. “I’m excited for the playoffs.”
Auburn 44, Park Crossing 28
AHS — 14 7 10 13 — 44
PC — 7 7 7 7 — 28
AHS — Brad Harper 20-yard fumble return (XP good), 10:18
PC — Trevor Robinson 8-yard pass (XP good), 6:33
AHS — Orlando Dean 25-yard fumble recovery (XP good), 3:38
PC — Robinson 14-yard pass (XP good), 3:47
AHS — Patrick McGlon 45-yard pass to Zae Ray (XP good), :58
AHS — Josh Owsley 44-yard FG, 9:03
AHS — McGlon 42-yard pass to Ray (XP good), 4:26
PC — Robinson 86-yard pass to William Ford (XP good), 3:35
PC — Robinson 32-yard pass to Braxton Toliver (XP good), 9:09
AHS — Aaron Diggs 11-yard run (XP blocked), 5:54
AHS — Diggs 33-yard run (XP good), 2:44