It isn't quite deja vu all over again, but it's close enough.
This time last week, the Wilson Hall and Laurence Manning Academy varsity football teams were prepping for their annual season-ending showdown of archrivals at Wilson Hall's Spencer Field. Today, the two teams will meet again in the opening round of the SCISA 3A state playoffs, except that the game is set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Billy Chitwood Field in Manning.
The Barons had a chance to grab a higher seed in the playoffs, but the 'Cats pulled off a miracle finish, scoring a touchdown with no time remaining and nailing a crucial point-after kick to gain the come-from-behind victory, 14-13. That result left Wilson Hall as the No. 6 seed, and facing the No. 3 Swampcats for the second straight week in the opening round.
In what turned out to be a defensive battle, the injury-plagued Barons had almost enough in the tank to pull off a victory; but LMA took over and drove 96 yards in the last three minutes of the game, capping the game-winning drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Braydon Osteen to a doublecovered Taylor Lee. The difference in the game was Wilson Hall's point-after kick following its second touchdown careening off the crossbar after it was partially deflected at the line of scrimmage.
Barons head coach Adam Jarecki said it was disappointing to lose, but heartening to see his team play the way it did.
"They played as hard as they could, and it came down to one play," Jarecki said. "They made it, and it was a disappointing way to end; but I'm still thinking along the positive side that they really played hard and did what they were supposed to do. We protected the ball and played ball-control offense, and we put ourselves in position to win the game.
"We haven't talked a lot about it," Jarecki said of the game's outcome. "That was last week, and this is a whole new week. We're excited about being in the playoffs, and I expect us to play hard like we always do. Maybe we'll get a break or two to go our way and the outcome will be different."
Jarecki said he expects to have fullback Brandon Carraway back this week after missing last week because of a concussion the week before, but will be without the services of two other players who were ejected. Laurence Manning also had a player ejected last week who will miss tonight's contest.
Laurence Manning head coach Robbie Briggs said the game might have given his team a little extra focus in practice this week.
"Our kids had a great week of practice, and they're excited about the playoffs," Briggs said. "I know they're going to give us another tremendous effort because that's what their kids and coaching staff are all about. We were very fortunate to win there last week, and our guys had a little extra focus in practice this week and understand the challenge that's in front of us this week.
"Everybody's talking about what we didn't do and that we played poorly, but that's a discredit to (Wilson Hall's) kids," Briggs said. "Their kids played their tails off on Senior Night. They outplayed us, they were more physical than we were at the point of contact, and we were very lucky to win that game.
"It comes down to who wins the battle in the trenches, and when you look at the film from Friday, their kids clearly dominated us inside, specifically their D-line against our O-line. I thought defensively we played really well, and if we hadn't, it wouldn't have been a close game."
With Hammond and Ben Lippen receiving byes through the first round, the winner of tonight's game will face Ben Lippen in the second round while Hammond will host the winner between Pinewood Prep and Porter-Gaud, also playing a rematch of last week's game.