A contest for the ages transpired this Friday night at Art Sanders field. Two senior laden squads squared off with their long sought after prize, a sectional title, on the line. Iron wills collided as both teams fought valiantly, desperately, to survive. Neither team blinked, neither team wilted. In the end, the Senators would outlast the Perry Central Commodores 20-19 to claim their 6th sectional title.
“All week long there was a weight on us,” said head coach Keith Nance. “It wasn’t a lack of focus or effort, but you could feel the pressure. When we came in halftime we talked about playing for our brothers. They went out and did that, and I could not be prouder of them.”
The excitement was palpable as both teams were already lined up for the opening kickoff with 2 minutes remaining on the clock. Both the visitor’s and the home stands were glued to the action on the field, living and dying with each triumph or setback.
Nervous energy would be expended by both clubs on the first couple series, as the teams traded turnovers and punts.
The Senators’ third drive would start off disasterly with consecutive losses on 1st and 2nd down. Facing a 3rd and 20, senior quarterback Holden Bowsman would drop back and, given ample time with great protection by his offensive line, would scan the defense before finding senior tight end Jacob Strange on a deep post route for a 70 yard touchdown pass. Strange would go on to tally over 150 yards receiving and 2 scores on the evening.
“A lot of people try to say things about 1A football and how it doesn’t compare to other levels,” said offensive coordinator Duane Nance. “Jacob Strange could play for anyone in the state.”
After the Senators grabbed the early lead, the Commodores would embark on a long, multi-play drive to the Senator 5 yard line. The Senators, in what has become a hallmark of their defense this season, would bow their back on the goalline and force a fumble on 4th down to take possession and prevent the score.
The Senators would take over deep in their own territory, and behind timely passing and solid running would matriculate the ball to midfield. From there Bowsman would find Strange again on a 40 yard catch and run that set the Senators up 1st and goal at the Perry Central five yard line. Sophomore running back Roper McPheeters would then take the hand off and follow a caravan of blockers through a massive hole for the Senators second score.
The Commodores would answer before halftime with another long drive, this time converting with a 5 yard touchdown pass just before halftime.
The game would tighten further in the second half as Perry Central would take the kickoff and drive to midfield before ripping off a long scoring run. The PAT would be good to make the score 14-13 in the Senators’ advantage.
Perry Central would force a Senator punt on the next possession, and seem poised to seize all the momentum and perhaps the game. The Commodores drove the ball to midfield, but just when it seemed the Senators might be playing from behind for the rest of the contest, freshman linebacker Greyson McCoy would drop under a curl route and intercept the Perry Central pass to set the Senators up first and ten.
“Usually this time of the year, you want to lean on your older guys,” said defensive coordinator Mark Gibson. “Greyson did a great job preparing throughout the week. We actually had trouble in the first game covering that curl-flat area, but he got into the correct position and made one of the biggest plays of the game.”
The Senators would drive into the red zone before the Bowsman to Strange connection would hit one more time. Bowsman would fake, roll right, dance around, and then drill the ball 25 yards on a rope to Strange who had just enough room to tap his feet in the back of the endzone for the score.
While they were now up seven points, the Senator momentum would be short lived as Perry Central yet again mounted a long drive before blasting another run into the endzone, leaving the Senators with a single point advantage.
The Commodores would elect to go for two and the lead, but senior linebacker Charles Madden would blitz through the line and stop the runner from reaching the end zone.
“Anytime they come out in that 2 fullback set, they run the quarterback up the middle,” said Madden. “I saw what they were doing and just went.”
After the monumental stop, the Senators would take possession and run out the remaining 6 minutes on the clock to clinch a hard fought sectional title.
The Senators (10-0) will travel to North Decatur for the regional championship next Friday.