When Springwood took a 26-20 lead on Lee-Scott with 2:49 left in the fourth quarter Thursday, there was no sign of panic on the Warriors’ sidelines. The Lee-Scott players knew they had made big plays again and again, and they were determined to continue that trend and walk away winners.
Lee-Scott (5-5, 1-3) got the last laugh in a wild non-region showdown, as the Warriors marched 77 yards down the field in 11 plays as the remaining time melted off the clock. Senior fullback Thomas Whatley ended the possession in perfect fashion, scoring on a one-yard run with 28 seconds remaining to leave the Warriors with a 26-20 victory.
“We were telling ourselves that we could do this. We’ve been through everything. We had it in us and we knew it, so we went down there, drove the ball and scored,” said Whatley, who had 16 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns. “It feels so good, just winning the game. No matter the score. It just feels great.”
Lee-Scott’s final possession came on the heels of what felt like the game-winning drive by the Wildcats.
Springwood (4-6, 1-2) had scored on a 14-play scoring drive late in the third quarter, and the Wildcats followed that pattern by piecing together a 16-play drive that left Lee-Scott’s players, coaches and fans eagerly eyeing the game clock as it ticked down.
After converting on a 4th-and-1 at the Lee Scott 2-yard line, Springwood quarterback Jordan Plank avoided disaster by just getting the snap off before the play clock expired and scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run. Lee-Scott blocked the extra-point attempt, leaving the Wildcats’ lead at 20-18.
“We moved the ball consistently and moved the ball just about every drive. We just had a couple drives where we just shot ourselves in the foot,” Springwood head coach John Gartman said. “Lee-Scott capitalized, and all the credit to them. They played a great game.”
The Warriors had one timeout to work with and 169 seconds showing on the scoreboard, but Whatley and the rest of the offense simply buckled down and made plays.
Lee-Scott quickly picked up two first downs on five plays to reach midfield, and three plays later Garrett Keller took off on a 12-yard run to help the team reach the 28-yard line. Tate McKelvey then went back to pass and fired downfield to Mailon Reese, who caught the ball on the 15-yard line, shook off a would-be tackler, lowered his shoulder into another defender and fell forward to the Springwood 4-yard line.
Two plays later, Whatley found pay-dirt. Whatley gave all the credit to Reese, who had the one reception for 24 yards as well as seven carries for 126 yards and one touchdown.
“It was crazy. It was really easy on me because they set me up for an easy touchdown. That’s all on Mailon,” Whatley said. “Mailon made a great run, and he trucked that kid at the end. It was all him on that.”
Whatley’s second touchdown capped off a non-region showdown that was back and forth throughout the night.
The Warriors started the scoring within the first two minutes of game action when McKelvey sold a play-action pass and hit Eli Arwood, who was all alone downfield and scored with ease. The 26-yard pitch-and-catch was followed by an unsuccessful two-point conversion, leaving Lee-Scott with a 6-0 lead.
Lee-Scott maintained its lead until the early seconds of the second quarter. Springwood ended a nine-play drive in style, as quarterback Jordan Plank called his own number and ran nine yards for a rushing touchdown. The extra point put the Wildcats on top 7-6 with 10:54 left until halftime.
After both teams had drives stall out and were forced to punt, the Warriors wasted little time in responding. Whatley took a carry to his right on the third play of the drive and was off to the races, outrunning every Wildcat in sight for a 41-yard rushing touchdown.
“It was great blocking,” Whatley said. “I had a wide-open hole, so I just ran as hard as I could.
Both teams looked poised for more points following Whatley’s big run, but the first half closed with Lee-Scott still clinging to a 12-7 lead.
After the break, the Wildcats demonstrated their plan for outplaying the Warriors in the second half. Springwood took its time on an impressively long possession, taking exactly eight-and-a-half minutes off the clock before Ethan Plank scored on an eight-yard run. Ethan Plank’s score gave Springwood a 14-12 lead with 3:22 left in the third quarter.
Just as soon as the Wildcats had gotten back on top, the Warriors answered courtesy another big play by Reese. Reese took the first play of Lee-Scott’s ensuing possession to the house, breaking loose on a run to the right for an 80-yard score that gave the Warriors a 18-14 lead 14 seconds after Ethan Plank’s touchdown.
The thriller of a third quarter was only overshadowed by a fourth in which no one on either side could exhale until Springwood’s final pass hit the ground as the clock expired.
Lee-Scott will return to action next Friday when they play at Monroe Academy in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs. Springwood, meanwhile, travels to Patrician Academy to open the Class AA playoffs.
The victory over the Wildcats may not have meant anything as far as standings are concerned, but in Lee-Scott head coach Robert Johnson’s mind, it can be just what the team needed before the start of the postseason.
“It’s huge. It really is. It springsboard us,” Johnson said. “We finished 5-5 in the regular season, but we just told the guys we’re 0-0 right now. Now, it’s time to get back to work and get ready for the two-time defending state champs.”
Lee-Scott 26, Springwood 20
SPR — 0 7 7 6 — 20
LS — 6 6 6 8 — 26
LS — Eli Arwood 26-yard reception from Tate McKelvey (2-point no good), 10:01
SPR — Jordan Plank 9-yard run (XP good), 10:54
LS — Thomas Whatley 41-yard run (2-pt no good), 5:29
SPR — Ethan Plank 8-yard run (XP good), 3:22
LS — Mailon Reese 80-yard run (2-pt no good),
SPR — Jordan Plank 1-yard run (XP blocked), 2:49
LS — Whatley 1-yard run (2-pt good), 0:28