NOTASULGA — Daryl Brown Jr. scored the game-winning touchdown with less than two minutes to go, and Notasulga defeated Linden 7-6 on Friday night to advance to the second round of the Class 1A playoffs.
Walter Tatum raced for a 48-yard gain on that game-winning series to spark the comeback win. Sophomore kicker Justin Tirado nailed the extra point to help lift the Blue Devils to victory.
Tatum then made the game-sealing interception on the defensive end to send Notasulga on to the second round.
Notasulga will play Brantley in the second round.
The first half saw two offenses struggle to find ways to move the ball against two tough defenses. To start the game, there were five straight three-and-outs until Linden converted on 2nd-and-6 with an eight yard run. A few plays later, it looked like the Blue Devil defense would get off the field by forcing a Linden punt. However, the Blue Devils muffed the punt and Linden recovered, retaining possession.
Momentum was in Linden’s favor, but the Notasulga defense came up with another stop and got the ball back.
The following three possessions were three-and-outs, a popular theme for a game that had a total of 14 three-and-outs.
Notasulga put together a drive as the first half came to a close, and a roughing the passer penalty on Linden gave the Blue Devils good field position to attempt a field goal. With one second left, the Blue Devils could not get the snap off, and the teams entered halftime deadlocked at zero.
Notasulga came out with a bang in the second half, executing a successful onside kick to start what could’ve their final half of the season. The Linden defense held tough, and the Patriots got the ball back in Blue Devil territory at the Notasulga 44 yard line. Two plays later, Zackree Bishop connected with Johnny Blackmon for a 48-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt was no good, giving the Patriots a 6-0 lead with 9:02 to play in the third.
The Patriot defense played lights out for the remainder of the third and the majority of the fourth quarter until Notasulga’s Walter Tatum ran for 48 yards into Linden territory, sparking the Blue Devil offense.
“It was great, it gained a lot of momentum,’” said Tatum.
A few plays later the Blue Devils scored a touchdown when Brown punched it in with less than two minutes to go in the game. This left it up to Tirado to give Notasulga the lead.
“I was nervous at first,” said Tirado “I was thinking about the seniors and that it was win or go home.”
Sure enough, Tirado made the kick. The Blue Devils made one more defensive stop with a game sealing interception by Tatum, and found themselves headed to the second round of the playoffs.
“I’m used to him [Tirado], he’s been doing it all year,” Notasulga head coach Anthony Jones said after the game, “My guys showed so much fight tonight, and I’m happy to get a win”.
Brantley defeated Fruitdale 72-32 elsewhere in the first round on Friday night.