Albany’s Emanuel Byrd runs by the Worth County defense to score one of his four TDs he accounted for Thursday night at Hugh Mills. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Marlin Hall said he saw it coming — coming right at him.
Emanuel Byrd saw daylight.
Then they met.
And it was over. Byrd's inspirational night had ended, less than a foot away. Call it a handful of inches.
That's what separated Worth County and Albany High on Thursday night at Hugh Mills, where Worth hung on to a 35-27 win when Hall --- a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection --- made the biggest tackle of the year, stopping Albany High's elusive quarterback Byrd --- a fellow Dynamite Dozen star --- just outside Worth's 2-yard line with 2:22 left in the game.
Bryd, who threw for 249 yards and rushed for 92 more, scrambled from the 10, needing to get to the 2-yard-line to keep Albany alive.
"It was do or die,'' said Hall, who plays linebacker and safety for Worth. "At first I thought he was going to throw it and stepped back. When I saw he was running, I came up. I knew I had to make the play. I was thinking, 'It's do or die. I've got to stop him before he gets to the marker.' I had to make the play for us to win the game. When I hit him, I knew he was short.''
Albany coach Felton Williams said he thought Byrd had reached the first down marker and was also furious over a call earlier in the drive.
The Indians drove to the 12-yard-line, and on first-and-10 Byrd, who had scrambled all night for big gains, dropped back to face a big pass rush. Once again Byrd avoided the sack and dumped a pass for a 5-yard gain, but the officials ruled Byrd had been stopped at the 20.
"They didn't even tackle him,'' Williams said. "(The Worth defender) had the tail of his jersey when he passed the ball — the tail of his jersey.''
Instead of being inside the 10 with a completed pass, the sack forced a second-and-18 from the 20. Byrd got 19 yards and 2 1/2 feet back, but was just short on the fourth down scramble.
That's why Williams was furious, saying his team had wrapped up Worth's quarterback earlier and they let the play continue and that he has seen that play "all year."
Williams admitted this one hurt.
"It does,'' he said. "Defensively, we're a better team than we showed tonight. When you score that many points, you expect to win.''
Albany High simply had no answer for Worth freshman tailback Zytavious Anderson, who took over the game in the second half. Anderson rushed for 272 yards on 19 carries. He scored one touchdown but set up three others with big runs and broke Albany High's back all night. He rushed for 100 yards in the first half and then added 172 in the second half, setting up both of Worth's secon- half TDs.
"I thought he ran the heck out of it,'' Worth coach Scotty Ward said, shaking his head over the 272-yard night. "That's pretty good, 272 yards by a freshman. He doesn't have that breakaway speed, but he's got that vision, and he knows how to cut.''
Ward wasn't surprised that Hall, the leader of Worth's team, made the big play.
"That was Marlin,'' he said of the game-clinching play.
Hall, meanwhile, was full of praise for Anderson.
"He's only a freshman,'' Hall said. "He's going to be something special.''
He's pretty special right now.
"I was just trying to keep motivated and keep it going,'' Anderson said. "My offensive line did it all, Marquavion Mency, Jeff Bradley and the rest of them. They made the holes, and I just had to keep fighting for it.''
Nothing could stop Anderson. He even ran out of his jersey. He opened the game wearing No. 29, but had it ripped, and switched to No. 13. Nothing changed. He just kept gaining big chunks of yards.
"That's what we need out of him,'' Hall said. "We need him to do that the rest of the year.''
The victory kept Worth (4-4 overall and 3-2 in the Region 1-AAAA) in the hunt for a playoff berth.
"We needed this,'' Ward said. "It kept us alive.''
Maybe that's why the sideline went crazy when Hall made the play to stop Byrd. Anderson jumped into the air.
"Oh yeah, I jumped,'' he said. "Then I hugged him. It was a big hug.''
The emotions spilled out form both sidelines. It was that kind of game. Worth scored on a 6-yard run from Quantavious Sweney on its first possession after Lavonte Robinson broke free for a 48-yard run on Worth's first play from scrimmage to the 6.
Albany (1-4, 2-6) scored on the first play in the second quarter when Byrd hit Rantiez with a 18-yard TD pass. Williams finished the night with nine receptions worth 165 yards and two touchdowns. He caught a 35-yarder from Bryd with 4:32 left in the third quarter to give Albany its final lead of the night, 27-22.
It was a furious second quarter. Sweney scored on a 1-yard run with 8:09 left, but Bryd answered with a 2-yard run with 6:16 left to close to 14-13 as Albany's PAT sailed left.
Anderson scored on an 8-yard run with 2:01 left to lift Worth to a 20-13 lead, and Robinson ran in a two-point conversion from the swinging-gate formation, and suddenly Worth was in control with a 22-13 lead.
Byrd was amazing down the stretch. He drove the Indians to the Worth 36 and on fourth down and scrambled 14 yards for a first down, but a late penalty wiped out the first down. Then on fourth-and-11, Bryd threw a 35-yard TD pass to Andrico Carter with 45 seconds left, and then tossed a two-point conversion pass to close to 22-20 at halftime.
Bryd's second TD pass to Williams gave the Indians a five-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Reddell hit Robinson with a 9-yard pass on the first play of the fourth to give Worth a 28-27 lead. Vashon Gaines intercepted Reddell's two-point conversion pass to keep it a one-point game, but Anderson broke free for a 56-yard gain to the 3 to set up a 1-yard TD run by Reddell with 5:19 left.
Then Byrd made one last drive — that ended less than a foot away.