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By Corey Stott
MEMPHIS, Mo.- 10/29/21- When the final horn had sounded, Coach Troy Carper’s Scotland County Tigers (4-6) found themselves in a painfully familiar position, courtesy of the South Shelby Cardinals (4-6). After establishing the early momentum and building a three-score lead, the Tigers saw that lead evaporate quickly in the closing minutes of regulation, before disappearing entirely in a one-overtime loss by a score of 32-26.
“We played well, but not well enough,” Carper said after the game. “We made too many fundamental mistakes. Too many arm tackles, too many missed blocks. This is the fifth game like this for us.”
Indeed, it does seem like a horrible sort of déjà vu that has haunted this team all season long. In a night that featured gusting crosswinds that at times hit 20 miles per hour, the Tigers established a solid ground game that moved the ball effectively. They combined that with a staunch defensive effort that kept the South Shelby ground game in check. As a result, it looked early on as though Scotland County would break the Cardinals’ will and have their way in this game.
But alas, South Shelby’s junior phenom quarterback Trevon Countryman began to throw lasers to his receivers and ends, exposing a weakness the Tiger defense has struggled with all season: the inability to cover receivers in the secondary. Countryman’s accuracy, his receivers’ knack for catching and hanging on to the ball, and Scotland County’s own self-inflicted mistakes late cost the Tigers the victory.
South Shelby received the ball to start the game. Both teams were held to a punt on their first series. The Cardinals had the ball at the Tiger 40-yard line before turning it over on downs with 5:05 to play in the first period. Scotland County took only three plays to find the endzone. Alex Long ran off the left edge for the 39-yard score. The two-point pass attempt was no good and the Tigers led 6-0 with 3:46 to play first quarter.
South Shelby didn’t flinch, however, and Wyatt Owens had a great return up the right boundary all the way to the Tiger 20-yard line. The Cardinals penetrated all the way to the Tiger 6-yard line before turning over on downs on a 4th and goal from the six.
The Tigers then flipped the field with a drive that reached the South Shelby 25-yard line before they turned it over on downs. The Cardinals punted on their next series, and the Tigers took over 1st and 10 at their own 40-yard line with 4:32 to play in the half.
Hayden Long capped off the 60-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown strike to Alex Long in the left corner of the end zone with 1:09 to play in the half. Hayden’s two-point dive was no good and the Tigers extended the lead to 12-0.
South Shelby then showed the first sign of having the Tigers’ number when Countryman connected on a crossing route to Owens on 1st and 10 at the South Shelby 42-yard line. After securing the catch, Owens broke several poor Tiger arm tackles and bad angles and scampered to the end zone on an improbable touchdown with just under a minute to play in the half. The two-point dive by Kendal Hammond was good and the Cardinals were back in it, trailing 12- 8. The Tigers would go three and out on the next drive and the Cardinals would run out of time, and it remained 12-8 going into the halftime locker room.
Both teams would go on extended drives that ended in turnovers on downs to start the half. The Tigers’ second possession would be much more fruitful, with Riley Small finding the endzone on a counter left on 2nd and 10 from the Cardinal 20-yard line. The Hayden Long two-point dive was no good and Scotland led 18-8 with 7:49 to play in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Scotland County’s Elias Hatfield recovered the onside kick for the Tigers. With all the momentum on their side, the Tigers appeared to score three plays later when Jadin Fuller hurdled into the endzone. However, that “hurdled” part was the problem, as that is a personal foul in high school football. The penalty negated the score. However, the Tigers would not be denied, and on the very next play Hayden Long took the quarterback keeper 18 yards up the gut for the score. Alex Long took the direct snap and ran the two-point try in and the Tigers appeared to be cruising to a victory, leading 26-8.
By this point in the game, the Cardinals’ body language appeared to indicate that they had accepted that defeat was imminent. Their next drive started out pretty shaky with two straight incompletions. However, fortune turned in the Cardinals’ favor on the next play, when a pass that was well-defended and tipped by Small was caught by Cameron Wiseman. With nothing but green ahead of him, Wiseman sprinted uncontested down the left sideline for the score. The two-point dive by Hammond was no good, and it was 26-14 with Scotland County still in the lead with just under six minutes to play.
It was fairly obvious to everyone that the South Shelby kickoff was going to be an onsides kick attempt. Well, obvious to everyone except the Tiger return team, who didn’t appear to adjust to the intended play and allowed the Cardinals to recover the kick at the Tiger 40-yard line trailing by two scores.
What happened next is still a point of contention to many who witnessed it. After an incomplete pass on first down, many on the Tiger sideline and in the press box noticed that the clock appeared frozen and had not run since the previous touchdown. But when Tiger coaches and even the PA announcer relayed that information to the game officials, they shrugged it off and continued play. The Cardinals ran their next play, which turned out to be a nine-yard pass completion with literally no time running off of the clock.
At this point, the scoreboard was powered down and restarted. By the time the sequence had played out, the Cardinals had managed to run four plays covering 40 yards in just a minute of game clock time. When the clock had been reset, no time was run off to adjust for the untimed downs. The fourth play of that series was a 15-yard draw to Hammond for the touchdown with 4:50 remaining in the game. The two-point pass was incomplete and the Tiger lead was now just 26-20.
You could feel panic begin to set in for the Tigers, who went three and out on their next series. South Shelby then went on a nine-play drive that began with 3:35 left to play that featured a nice balance of run and pass that had the Tiger defense on their heels. On 2nd and goal from the Tiger 5-yard line, Countryman took it himself off the right edge for the game-tying touchdown with 24.6 seconds left to play. The game hung in the balance as the Cardinals attempted the only extra-point kick of the evening. The kick was well short and wide right and the game was tied at 26 apiece.
The Tigers only had one timeout left and back-to-back running plays saw the regulation game clock expire before they could find the endzone, and the game headed to overtime. In high school, both teams get an opportunity to start at the 25-yard line going into the endzone. Downs are counted and measured just as they are in regulation. Each team is given a timeout to utilize in overtime.
Scotland County had the ball first in overtime. Three consecutive running plays had the Tigers in great shape with a 4th and one at the Cardinal 16-yard line. But then disaster struck. The play did not come in from the sideline until there were 11 seconds left on the play clock. With three seconds left on the play clock and the Tigers obviously struggling to get lined up in time, the Tigers inexplicably failed to use their timeout and instead took a delay of game penalty.
That took what appeared to be a fairly simple and high-percentage Hayden Long quarterback keeper for the needed yard to keep the drive alive and instead turned it into a much more difficult 4th and six from the 21-yard line. Alex Long took the direct snap and shoveled the pass to Small, who was stopped well short of the line-to-gain. The Tigers turned it over on downs and you could feel the wind go out of the Tiger sails.
The Cardinals then took over for their own series from the 25-yard line in a drive that featured a Hammond running for 11 yards, four yards, and nine yards, before Countryman gave the Cardinals the 32-26 walk-off win with a six-yard untouched touchdown scramble.
After the game, Carper was asked what his message to the team was in the post-game huddle. “I was lost,” he replied. “I didn’t really know what to say. It was fun. The kids played hard, they never gave up and that’s all we can ask of them.”
He acknowledged his seven seniors as well. “I do want to thank these seniors. They’ve done a great job for us and helped us build this program to get it in the direction we’re going. They’ve been a big part of that.”
Scotland County had 355 total yards of offense, with 45 yards passing and 310 yards rushing. South Shelby had 390 total yards of offense, with a balanced 204 yards through the air and 186 yards on the ground.
Hayden Long was 2/10 passing for 45 yards and a touchdown. Owen Triplett had a catch for 30 yards and Alex Long had a catch for 15 yards and a touchdown.
Hayden Long led the Tiger rushers with 17 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown. Alex Long had 12 carries for 113 yards, Trayton Buckallew 11 carries for 40 yards, Small three carries for 26 yards, and Fuller two carries for 22 yards.