It obviously took plenty of skill, and the usual amount of luck. But on this night, what might have made the biggest difference in Houston County’s 27-22 win – its first of the year – over Veterans was overcoming some major late misfortune.
That came with about five minutes left in the ballgame and all of the points on the board. (Although nobody knew all of the points were on the board.) Following a Bears punt, the Warhawks took the ball on their own 19. At that point there was 6:10 on the clock. They ran three plays, and on the third of them, Craig Luckey found some room on the right side for a first down.
An incomplete pass followed, as did two sacks – the charge led by Jaiyon Nealy. At that point it appeared Houston County would get the ball back and have a chance to run out the clock for the win.
Instead, the punt was mishandled. Veterans recovered it on the Bears’ 48 and continued to drive. A run netted 10 yards, and a pass interference got it to the 24. After two runs netted four yards and a pass fell incomplete, the Warhawks converted a fourth down when Leyton Pinckney found Cordelle Clark at the 12. At that point there was 42 seconds showing on the clock. A run got it to the 8. Veterans took three shots at the endzone from there, but all three came up empty. The last came as the clock sounded, giving the victory to the Bears.
They started the game by threatening to score on their first possession. Winning the coin toss and electing to receive, they took the ball on their own 26, ran nine plays, picked up three first downs and got it to the Veterans 8.
There, however, it was fumbled. Adiran Flint recovered on the 11 to help send Veterans back in the other direction. The Warhawks ran nine plays – one a 39-yard pass from Leyton Pinckney to Jeremy Horton – before stalling. James Tinney came in and kicked a 28-yard fieldgoal.
The Bears proved the first drive was no fluke by adding a second, that did find the endzone. This time they went eight plays and 68 yards and finished it off when Max Rigby found Keishoen Jarrett from 37 yards out. The point after was no good, however, making it 6-3 just inside the three-minute mark.
After a punt by both – the game in the second by then – Veterans scored again. It was a nine-play drive that ended with a Pinckney strike to Jeremy Horton. The Tinney’s point after made it 10-6.
The Bears needed just two plays to answer that. The first was for just three yards. The second was for 48. It came via Donavon Mabry. Jon David Ferraris’ PAT was good making it 13-10.
After forcing the Warhawks to a three-and-out, Houston County scored again on a nine-play drive that was finished off by Wesley Steiner from the 1. Ferraris’ PAT made it 20-10 with less than a minute on the clock.
That turned out to be plenty of time as Pinckney found Horton at the 39 on the second play from scrimmage and then found Zytorian Williams for the score following. The point after was no good, however, making it 20-16 at the half.
Veterans started the second half with a kickoff run by Sebastian Verger to the 15. That in turn turned into a Tinney fieldgoal of 31 yards to cut the score to 20-19.
Houston County, however, answered with a seven-play drive that went 57 yards and ended with a Rigby keeper from the 1. Ferraris made it 27-19.
No surprise the Warhawks answered that. They took the ball on the 23 and got it down inside the redzone before a fumble put an end to the drive. They were able to get a 23-yard fieldgoal from Tinney out of it, however, to make it the final score.
The rest of the way was all about punts – Veterans lost it on an interception at one point; Houston County lost it on a fumble – and of course that late misfortune that was overcome.