• 75°

BA Cougars turn back Lamar in AA playoff thriller

Gage Posey would not be denied the winning touchdown. The senior quarterback carried two would-be tacklers into the end zone Friday  night, giving the Brookhaven Academy Cougars, a thrilling, last-minute, 33-28 victory against Lamar School’s Raiders, in the second round of the MAIS Class AA state playoffs.

     The outcome wasn’t secured until BA safety Seth Rushing intercepted Lamar quarterback Garrett Dudley’s last-second pass in the end zone. That ignited a joyous celebration among the Cougar Nation as students and fans poured onto R.M. “Red” Stuard Field to celebrate.

     “I want to thank God,” said Rushing, between hugs of congratulations. “I knew they were going to throw it to the end zone. We were in a prevent defense. Thank God we won.”

     With sheer determination, Posey broke the plane of the goal line with 33 seconds left to play. “I just knew I was getting in there. We knew we would need our best game to beat Lamar.”

     Posey completed 18 of 37 passes for 307 yards and 1 touchdown, a 43-yard toss to Matthew Evans. Posey also ran for 3 touchdowns.

     Lamar (9-4) recognized as the MAIS giant-killer after upsetting previously unbeaten Centreville last week, almost authored a miraculous comeback. Lee Martin had returned the kickoff to midfield. Dudley hooked up with Martin on a 25-yard pass to BA’s 23. On the next two plays,  Heath  Hickman and Tanner Parvin broke up two of Dudley’s passes, setting the stage for the final snap with seven seconds left on the clock.

     The Cougars (9-4) advance to the South State finals at Simpson Academy in Mendenhall. Simpson eliminated Trinity 21-14 in the other semifinals game. North Delta plays Marshall for the North state title Friday night.

     BA head coach Tripp McCarty was weakened by a severe case of influenza and quickly departed after the game. He signaled offensive plays from the sidelines during the contest.

     BA defensive coordinator Johnny Lane Ball fielded questions from the media.

     “We were very fortunate to be in the right position on defense,” said Ball, reviewing Rushing’s interception. “We double-teamed their best receiver and we had two (defenders) on their running back, too.”

     Ball praised the overall performance. “I am very proud of our kids. Lamar has one of the best coaches (Mac Barnes) in the state.”

     Posey shouldered most of the offensive load when running back Landon Nettles was injured midway through the third quarter. The game was halted with 9:32 left to play when Nettles loaded into a KDMC ambulance.

     BA linebacker Colby Culbertson said, “Landon is a key part of our team. I hope he’s OK.”

     Nettles ran 52 yards for the game’s first TD. Kevin Nettles tacked on the extra point with 7:50 left in the first quarter. 

     Posey capitalized on a fumble by Corey Skinner, Lamar’s bruising senior runner,  at the Lamar 43. On first down, Posey connected with Evans for the TD.

     Skinner took a pitchout from Dudley, turned the corner and went 34 yards for Lamar’s first TD. Danny Weisner kicked the PAT and it was 14-7 with 9:06 left in the half.

     The Cougars  pulled ahead 21-7 on a 2-yard plunge by Posey. It capped a 13-play, 65-yard drive.

     Dudley guided the Raiders on a 61-yard scoring march in the final 3 minutes of the first half. He hit wide receiver Chase Davis on a slant pattern from 11 yards out and it was 21-13.

     To start the second half, Dudley hit  Martin with a flip screen that was good for 42 yards and a TD. Skinner was stopped on the conversion run and Lamar trailed 21-19.

     A 24-yard field goal by Weisner gave the Raiders their first lead at 22-21 with 3:25 left in the third quarter.

     Posey scrambled out of the pocket to elude tackler and threw a bomb to a wide open Ross Foreman for 64 yards and a first down at Lamar’s 11. Rushing took the next pass 10 yards to the 1 and Posey scored over left tackle on the next play. The 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete and BA led 27-22.

     Entering the fourth quarter, the Raiders halted BA at the Lamar 28 on a fourth down, incomplete pass.  That defensive stand launched an 11-play, 72-yard drive, climaxed by Skinner’s tackle-breaking blast from 9 yards out.  The Raiders led 28-22 with 8:34 remaining.

     Five minutes later, the Cougars regained possession at their 12-yafd line. Posey piloted an 11-play, 88-yard march for the winning touchdown.

     “Gage wanted the ball and our offensive line did a good job of blocking the first guys,” said Coach Ball, describing the decisive TD.  “Gage willed himself into the send zone”

     On defense, the Cougars got 9 tackles from Preston Rawls. Nettles and Culbertson each had 7 tackles. Nettles rushed 13 times for 85 yards before leaving the game.

     Skinner (5-8, 187) finished with 26 carries for 172 yards.