West drops heartbreaker in chaotic final minute
MT. ULLA — In the final seconds of the West Rowan-Cox Mill game Friday night, the range of emotions cannot be defined, the twists and turns cannot be described and the end result will be debated for years to come.
Cox Mill stunned the Falcons on senior night 34-29 in a key South Piedmont Conference game that literally will not be sorted out until the game film is reviewed.
“I have never seen anything like it”, West Coach Scott Young stated. “I’ve coached over 200 games and I have not seen anything close.”
“I have never been in something as crazy as that,” Charger quarterback and game hero Hunter Longmire said,” That was a real eye opener.”
West (3-4, 5-5) had battled back in the second half and was clinging to a 29-27 lead with 18 seconds left but the Chargers (3-4, 4-6) were lined up for a potential game winning field goal by Tyler Kemo at the 11. The 27-yard attempt was low and blocked at the line of scrimmage. The Falcons went into full celebration mode.
The ball was in the hands of West defender Raykwon Torrence who tossed it to the ground. But the whistle had not blown and the ball just laid there at the 10. In the midst of the mayhem, Longmire ran and scooped the ball up and raced into the end zone with 5.6 seconds left.
“I looked over and saw the Coach screaming to pick up the ball,” he recalled. “I looked to try and find it then my instincts kicked in.”
Technically it goes down as a fumble recovery and return but other factors were involved. The ball was beyond the line of scrimmage and may have been a dead ball. Players and coaches from both sidelines may have gone onto the field. Plus West players swear they heard a whistle. Both nothing will change. The game is over.
“When we blocked it everybody heard a whistle,” said a dejected Falcon defensive star Najee Tucker. “That is why we all stopped playing and started celebrating.”
Yet the touchdown was on the board and West trailed 32-29 with 5.7 seconds left. But plenty of drama remained. West started at their 20 with quarterback Harrison Baucom flipping the ball to Kace Otto. Baucom then rolled out and caught an Otto pass at the 40. He lateraled as he was tackled and the ball hit the ground in a mad scramble.
Suddenly out the scrum came 6-4, 290 pound lineman Hezikiah Banks at the 50 and rumbling untouched for an apparent miracle score and Falcon win as time expired.
But officials ruled an inadvertent whistle ended the play, then they penalized West for a late hit after the inadvertent whistle and put them back at the 10 for one last untimed play. But it was not to be on this night.
“I am going to take the high road on this until I watch the film,” Young stated. “ All I know is we had 5 or 6 opportunities to win the game and we didn’t. They had one chance to win the game and they did.”
Winning coach Craig Stewart, a South Rowan grad, was both elated and philosophical. “We have been trying to tell our kids all season that when something bad happens try to come back and do something good.” he stated. “That proves it right there. It is a great win against a very good team.”
There were a number of superlatives on both sides in the game. Longmire shredded the West secondary for 286 yards and long TD passes of 30, 44 and 47 yards. The Chargers jumped out to a 14-0 lead with their option attack before West rallied back with a big third quarter.
Led by halfback Daisean Reddick and Baucom, the Falcons forged ahead by as many as nine points. Baucom scored three times on short runs as he rushed for 80 yards. Reddick surpassed the 2000 yard career mark with a stellar 132 yard night on 15 carries. His 40 yard scoring sprint seemed to wrap it up with 9:09 left, 29-20. But Longmire answered with a 47 yard pass to Devon Cobb for a score with 7 minutes left to make it 29-27.
West ran some time off the clock but ended up punting with just over three minutes left. Part of their undoing in the final dramatic minutes were a pair of critical penalties that kept the Chargers alive. A facemask penalty gave them a first down then a pass interference call in the end zone set up the opportunity to win with the field goal.
With one regular season game at Hickory Ridge next week, and fading play-off hopes, the Falcons have to find a way to get their spirits up.
“We just have to pull it together and come ready to work hard,” Baucom stated. In the meantime Young plans to appeal to their pride. “You just hope our guys want to finish as winners.”