The folks in Macon are still heartbroken about Deerfield kicker Trey Puckett’s game-winning 40-yard field goal at the end of regulation to beat Mount de Sales during last season’s GISA Class AAA state playoffs that send the Knights into the state title game, and MDS home. (Herald file photo)
ALBANY -- Trey Puckett watches the game film from time to time -- he can't help it. He gets it out, sits back and relives the moment over and over.
"It always gives me a chill up my spine,'' said Puckett, whose 40-yard field goal at the gun beat Mount de Sales, 30-27, and sent Deerfield-Windsor into the GISA Class AAA state final last year.
They carried Puckett off the field that night.
Want To Go, Listen or Follow Online?
WHO: Mount de Sales (7-3) at Deerfield (9-2).
WHAT: GISA Class AAA state playoffs, 1st round.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today.
RADIO: 107.7 FM.
FOLLOW ONLINE: twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
Deerfield had an easier time beating Tattnall Square, 38-22, in the final to complete a perfect 13-0 season, and maybe that's why the Mount de Sales semifinal game still lingers in everyone's memory.
"That game was a classic,'' DWS running back and linebacker Quentin Heard said. "It's a game we will never forget.''
Now, the Knights have to do it again.
In a rare and almost unbelievable scenario, Deerfield meets Mount de Sales tonight in the opening round of the GISA Class AAA state playoffs, right back at DWS, where the Knights won that heart-stopper last year.
"It isn't what I was expecting,'' said DWS coach Allen Lowe, who -- like everyone in GISA -- felt Mount de Sales had a good chance to be the No. 1 team coming out of the north half of the bracket. "That region is deep. They have four good teams, and somebody had to be fourth.''
In reality, Deerfield may face its biggest test in the playoffs tonight.
No one wants to beat DWS as badly as Mount de Sales, which left the field in tears a year ago.
"Some of their guys were talking about it at the state track meet,'' Heard said. "You know they want to beat us.''
Running back Gaughf Ivey knows Mount de Sales will be looking for revenge and more, but he said he likes the challenge.
"That motivates me just knowing that they want to beat us that badly,'' he said.
The Cavaliers (7-3) won their first seven games before injuries slowed them down. They lost three running backs and Josh Abrams, a Division 1 receiver who is out for the season. The three running backs sat out the season finale last week, and are healthy for tonight's game.
"They are better defensively than they were last year,'' Lowe said. "Offensively, they're still very good. Losing Abrams was a setback.''
Lowe knows this could be another classic, because the Cavaliers throw the ball well, and can pound it with anyone. They featured two big backs last year in the Swain brothers. Myles Swain is back, and has gained 911 yards on 87 carries and scored 14 touchdowns. Donald Fleming has gained 557 yards on 70 carries. But Mount de Sales is balanced. QB Ryan McCallie has completed 57 passes for 761 yards and 10 TDs.
DWS has re-invented itself again, but some things don't change. The Knights, who lost several skilled players including all-state players such as QB Banks Kinslow, running back Davis Moore and linebacker Rhett Cooper, are still the team to beat in GISA.
They're 9-2, but that includes a loss to Florida powerhouse North Florida Christian and a tough 14-10 loss in the second week of the season to Stratford.
Dallas Margeson, who took over at quarterback, has grown up and looks like a leader as the Knights enter the playoffs. He has competed 71-of-123 for 1,097 yards and 11 TDs with only two interceptions. Rich Fallaw has 20 receptions for 293 yards and four touchdowns, and Kh'ron McClain has 15 catches for 331 yards and four TDs.
Heard leads the ground game with 937 yards on 115 carries and has rushed for 10 touchdowns, Ivey has gained 400 yards on 53 carries and scored eight times, and McClain has picked up 372 yards on 45 carries and rushed for seven TDs. Most of the offense has come early in games because DWS has romped almost every week.
The most amazing stat from this year's team comes from the front four -- Matt Miller Matthew Fox, Hunter Bretel, and Harrison Houston -- which has combined for 15 of the team's 21 sacks. Fox, a sophomore, has been amazing and has nine sacks.
He's even better as a senior.
He has made 8-of-10 field goals, including a season long 43-yarder, and he has made 45-of-47 extra points.
"I hope it doesn't come down to another (last-second field goal), '' Puckett said. "But if it does, I'll be ready. I wouldn't want to have to do it again. I would rather get it over with.''
Tonight's game means something else to the Knights, who have heard the critics this year.
"We want to win the state championship,'' Puckett said. "And we want to send a message.''
The message is simple: That nothing has changed at Deerfield.
"I think it was more of people questioning us this year,'' Heard said. "We lost some real good players from last year's team, an all-state quarterback, running back and linebacker, and a lot of real good linemen.
"A lot of people assumed we were going to have an off year. You could tell there was some doubt (out there).''
The kids feel they have another state title run in them, and why not. These seniors have played in the state title game three years in a row.
Lowe knew what to expect at the beginning of the season.
"The expectations are high. We knew that,'' he said. "We wouldn't want it any other way.''
And his young team has grown into a power, getting better and better every week and preparing for another run at the title -- a different team from a year ago, but a team with the same mindset.
"Last year we won every ball game,'' Lowe said. "That doesn't happen very often. It's a matter of us taking care of business now. This bunch of seniors has won four region titles and has been in three state championship games. We want to close it out.''
They're three wins away from it -- chills and all.
"Yeah, I'll probably watch that (film) again this week,'' Puckett said on Wednesday. "I'll probably watch it tonight.''