Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio's Trojans lost on a hook-and-ladder play last Friday to Hardaway.
LEESBURG -- Speechless ...
That's how Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio described how he felt after his Trojans lost to Hardaway, 45-43, on Friday on a 70-yard, last-second, hook-and-ladder play that left Lee County stunned.
"That last play was one of those once-in-a-lifetime flukes,'' said Fabrizio, whose team had made a dramatic comeback, erasing a 26-0 lead to take the lead, 42-38, with 20 seconds left in the game.
The Trojans didn't just come back to take the lead, Fabrizio played it like a chess master, milking the clock down to 20 seconds before QB Matt Mears threw a 9-yard TD pass to Casey Hightower to give Lee County the lead.
"We were at the 10 with a minute and half left to play, and we wanted to take the clock down so they wouldn't have any time left to come back,'' Fabrizio said.
Fabrizio then added: "We were either going to score a touchdown or kick a field goal to tie it.''
It almost worked.
But Hardaway pulled off the hook-and-ladder play with eight seconds left in the game.
"We had the play surrounded,'' Fabrizio said. "We had four guys 50 yards deep, and two others who were 20 yards deep. But everything went perfect for them. If 20 things don't right they don't score. Everything had to go perfectly for them. If one thing out of 20 -- if one guy takes a step the other way -- doesn't go right they don't score. A bunch of our guys were there, it was just the angle. It was one of those amazing things. Not good amazing. It just leaves you speechless.''
Mears threw for 406 yards, and sophomore Josh Cabrera had 10 receptions for 125 yards while Hightower made seven catches for 125 yards in the loss.
Lee County's passing game brought the Trojans back. They were down, 26-0, in the first quarter.
"I've never come back from a game where we were down 26-0 to take the lead, and I've been coaching a while," Fabrizio said. "It was a big swing of emotions to come back like that and then lose on an astonishing play like that.
"We've got a lot of young skilled players on offense, and I think they really grew up (in the comeback). Our kids just kept fighting and coming back. I was real proud of their resiliency.''
WESTOVER'S DEFENSE DOMINATING: The reason the Westover kids believe they can win the Region 1-AAA title is because of their defense, which almost had its second shutout of the season on Friday in a 20-6 win against Crisp County.
One of the key matchups in the game was Crisp County receiver Jontavious Carter, who has committed to the University of Miami, and Westover's Kenneth Towns, a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection.
Towns is better known as a receiver, but after the way he played defensive back against Carter, Florida State might want to recruit him just for its games against Miami. Carter, one of the top recruits in Georgia, had only four receptions for 53 yards, and his longest catch of the night was a 20-yarder on the first play from scrimmage.
Towns was not only impressive going toe-to-toe with Carter, but he almost had an interception, stepping in front of Carter on a play over the middle and grabbing the ball. Unfortunately for Towns, he couldn't hang onto the pick. Still, he had a big night as a defensive back.
"He did a great job covering him,'' Westover coach Octavia Jones said. "We put him on Carter last year, and Carter had only two catches in that game.''
Westover's secondary didn't have an interception in the game, but had two near misses. The Patriots have 11 interceptions this year.
MONROE SAYS BYE-BYE TO BYE WEEK: Monroe finally had a bye week last week and resumes play Friday at Crisp County in a huge Region 1-AAA game.
So how did Monroe spend the bye week?
"We put together a MASH unit to try to get everyone healthy,'' said Monroe coach Charles Truitt, who showed up at Hugh Mills Stadium on Friday to watch the Westover-Crisp County game along with several of his players. "We really needed the bye week. We've had a lot of bumps and bruises and need to get everybody ready to play these final games.''
Monroe, which beat Worth County, 27-6, to get its first Region 1-AAA win, is now 1-2 in the region, but can reach the playoffs if the Tornadoes win two of their last three games. They face Crisp on Friday and then meet Dougherty next week before playing Westover in the regular-season finale Nov. 4.
"We just hope the win (against Worth County) will turn our season around and we can get on a roll to end the season and get to the playoffs,'' Truitt said. "We want to win out.''
STILL HUNGRY, DEERFIELD?: Trinity Christian coach Buddy Woodard knows all to well what a hungry, driven, inspired Deerfield-Windsor football team looks like.
Last season -- Woodard's first with the Crusaders -- the Knights rolled right past Trinity Christian with a 35-14 victory en route to an undefeated season and a GISA Class AAA State Championship.
On Friday, the Knights stomped the Crusaders again by a score of 45-14. Only this time, Woodard saw something a little different in the Knights.
"If there was one thing -- and this is my own personal opinion -- they probably aren't as hungry as they were last year," Woodard said. "They were really hungry in their eyes (last season). They had a goal, and they went for it."
When The Herald asked the Knights about Woodard's observation, Deerfield coach Allen Lowe somewhat agreed, adding that it's just a matter of time before his Knights get that hunger back in their eyes. After all, DWS has outscored its opponents in its last five wins, 200-60.
Not too much to stay hungry about.
"We are through that mid-part of the year, and we are trying to figure out all the pieces to the puzzle," Lowe said. "Right now, we still feel good about what we got, and I think the hunger will be there when we get to the main games."
DWS junior Kh'ron McClain said the week of practice leading up to the game against Trinity Christian was all about finding energy and staying focused.
"I could tell from the start of practice this week that we were working hard to get this win," said McClain, who had a 14-yard rushing touchdown and a 65-yard interception return for a score against the Crusaders. "And we are motivated to keep winning."
How's that for hungry?
HORNETS EYING POSTSEASON: Pelham High has made the playoffs once in the last nine years, a first round loss in 2009. But suddenly the Hornets are two wins away, and maybe even one, from returning this season after last Friday's 28-20 win over Terrell County.
Pelham (4-4, 3-2 Region 1-A) is off this week before going to Mitchell County and then playing host to Calhoun County in the final week of the regular season, a huge matchup that should determine the Hornets' playoff future. Miller County, Pelham and Calhoun currently have the inside track to the last two region playoff spots, with Seminole and Mitchell nearly a lock to finish 1-2 in the standings. Miller holds the tiebreaker with wins against both Pelham and Calhoun.
Pelham hasn't beaten a team with a winning record this season, but a win against Mitchell County would nearly guarantee a playoff spot.
"We can't go in there overconfident," Hornets' senior Denzel Jackson said. "We'll go in there with our heads held high."
Terrell County, meanwhile, is still alive at 2-3 in Region 1-A, but loses to Pelham and Calhoun has them in a hole. The Greenwaves (2-6) will be favored in their next game in two weeks against Stewart County and a win against Mitchell County in the finale could send them to the postseason.
"Playoffs? I don't know," Terrell County head coach William Huff said after Friday's loss to Pelham. "We've just got to worry about Stewart (County). There's a lot of football left to be played in the region."