Early County’s Jacori Taylor, who threw for 299 yards and a touchdown Thursday, scrambles away from the pressure of Albany’s Calvin Jackson. Taylor ran for two scores and threw for another in the thrilling 36-34 victory. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY -- Jauron Brown looked at the ground, looked up, and then looked at the ground again.
Brown had just been stopped short on a two-point conversion run that would have sent one of the wildest games of the year into overtime.
But now it was over.
Brown and Albany High came up short, falling to Early County, 36-34, at Hugh Mills Stadium on Thursday night when the Bobcats stuffed the two-point conversion run with 47 seconds left in the game.
"There wasn't anything there,'' said Brown, his voice soft and low -- just like the feelings at Albany High.
He looked up again.
"They were stacked to the side I was running to. I should have gone outside,'' he said. "It was an emotional (loss), very emotional.''
Then more silence.
Albany High (4-5 overall, but only 1-4 in Region 1-AA) had stormed back from 21-0 to knot things up at 28-28, and then the Indians had to drive 74 yards in the final minutes just to have a chance to tie it.
Emotional, very emotional.
Albany took over at its 26 with 4:23 left, and Emmanul Byrd scrambled and went diving into the right corner of the end zone -- just making it -- with 47 seconds left to close the gap to 36-34.
Then Brown, who ran off tackle for what looked like an 11-yard TD run with 1:26 left only to have his TD wiped out because of an illegal formation penalty, got the call.
"I really believed we could get it,'' Albany High coach Felton Williams said of calling a running play. "I felt we could run the ball. I felt like we could run the ball behind my two big guys (Herald Dynamite Dozen linemen Roscoe Byrd and Jontavious Morris).''
Then Williams had his own moment of silence, and was asked if he could do it again what he would call.
"Play action,'' he said.
Early's kids hung on, and then celebrated like crazy afterward. The Bobcats have had their share of heartbreaking losses, and savored this one a bit on a night when a low snap proved to be the difference.
"Their kids played great. Our kids played great,'' Early County coach Trey Woolf said. "We made one more play than they did.''
The play that will haunt Albany is an ad-lib play with 10:06 left in the game. The Indians, who were down 21-0 with 3:22 left in the half, and trailed 21-7 at halftime, took over the game in the third, scoring three times, including two touchdowns with 1:47, to knot things at 28.
But Early, which improved to 2-3 in the region and 4-5 for the season, bounced back and scored on Ladonis Bryant's 10-yard run with 10:06 left to grab a 34-28 lead. Bryant, who is the holder on extra points, fielded a low snap, and decided to be innovative. He took off.
"The snap was low, and when that happens I yell, 'Fire! 'That tells the line to pull for me,'' Bryant said. "I saw (the defensive back) coming in, so I just went to the outside of him.''
He scored the two points untouched.
"When that happened, I was thinking I hope that doesn't come back to haunt us, and it did,'' Williams said.
It wasn't just the irony of a botched play beating Albany that haunted Williams later, it was the way his kids played the second half.
"We finally played the way I knew we could play all year,'' he said of the comeback. "And on that play (Bryant's two-point conversion run) we got a rush. We have had trouble getting pressure on the kicker all year, and we finally get pressure on the kicker, and they score on a run.''
"This was a tough loss, very tough.''
Early quarterback Jacori Taylor, who has been on fire this month, had another big game, throwing for 202 yards in the first half. He finished the night completing 12-of-23 for 299 yards and a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for two TDS.
It was Bryant who was on the end of most of those passes, and Bryant made more ground after each catch. He had five receptions for 152 yards in the first half, and caught the only ball thrown to him in the second half -- a 30-yarder to finish with 182 yards in receptions.
But the second half belonged to Albany and Bryd, who hit six passes in a row to ignite Albany's third quarter. He drove the Indians 75 yards in six plays to open the second half, and Brown scored on a 6-yard run to close to 21-14. Taylor answered the his second TD run of the night -- a 6-yarder with 7:06 left in the third to make it 28-21. Then Albany erupted, scoring twice within 1:47.
Elliott Martin ran the ensuing kickoff back 73 yards to close to 28-21, and then the Indians partially blocked Early's punt, and took over at the Early 31. Bryd hit Larry Sanford for 11, then ran for five to the 15 before connecting with Gerald Jenkins for a 15-yard TD with 5:09 -- and just like that it was 28-28.
The Indians kept coming, and after another three-and-out, Bryd drove the Indians from their 47 to the Early 16, but Early's Brandon Carter made a brilliant play to snatch an interception at the 8-yard-line that probably saved the game for the Bobcats.
Then came Early's final scoring drive, and Albany's gutsy final drive to make it close. And then came the run that fell short.
"I thought the game was going into overtime,'' Bryant said.. "It turned out (my run for two) was a big play, a very big play.''
Fullington turns close game into 42-20 rout of Randolph Southern: Fullington Academy turned a two-point lead at halftime into a convincing 22-point win Thursday night against Randolph Southern.
Fullington's 42-20 victory dropped Randolph Southern's record to 1-8 overall and 0-5 in GISA Region 2-A.
Randolph Southern quarterback Jared Sauls led the Patriots, who trailed, 22-20, at halftime, with touchdown passes to his older brother Brett Sauls and Drew Weathersby. Blake Lamb had a 1-yard rushing touchdown for Randolph Southern, while Trey Goree and Matt Kendick led the Patriots' rushing attack with 69 yards each.