As the final frantic seconds were running off the clock, Laurence Manning Academy quarterback Braydon Osteen got a quick word from his wide receiver -- and longtime friend – Taylor Lee.
“Me and Taylor have been playing football together since cub (league), and he came over to me and told me to throw the football to him,” Osteen said.
And that’s what Osteen did on the last play of the game between the Swampcats and Wilson Hall on Friday at Spencer Field. He threw a jump ball pass right at the goal line and Lee went up and got over two Baron defenders and fell in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown pass as time expired to tie the game at 13-13.
Jackson Lee then came on and kicked – not once, but twice – the game-winning extra point for a 14-13 victory in an improbable game with an improbable ending.
LMA came into the game with a 7-2 record and on a 3-game winning streak. WH was 5-4, on a 3-game losing streak and without its top three rushers, all out with injuries.
Yet Wilson Hall was leading 13-7 and had had Laurence Manning starting at its 4-yard line with 2:56 remaining in the game. The Swampcats drove as far as the Baron 7, but a holding penalty and an illegal procedure call pushed them back to the 27.
With no timeouts and time winding down quickly, Osteen rolled to his right and with pressure coming from his back side, put the ball up for Taylor Lee.
“It seemed like the ball stayed up there forever,” Taylor Lee said. “But he (Osteen) threw the perfect jump ball. He threw it just right and I timed my jump right. I don’t know how many defenders I had around me, but I just went up and got it.
“There’s not a better quarterback (than Osteen).”
Jackson Lee – no relation to Taylor -- came on for the extra point and drilled it through the uprights, but LMA was penalized for illegal procedure. With the ball moved five yards back, he still drilled it straight through the middle for the winning point.
“I was a little nervous when I was warming up on the sideline,” Jackson Lee said. “When I got in there though I didn’t feel that way either time.”
For WH head coach Adam Jarecki, it was a bitter pill to swallow, but one he did graciously.
“I’m so proud of my team and the way it battled,” said Jarecki, who will have to take his team to Manning next Friday to meet the same Swampcats in the first round of the SCISA 3A state playoffs. “We had a great defensive game plan, but they had a great player (Taylor Lee) go and make a great play.”
LMA had 230 yards of total offense for the game, but 101 of it – due to penalties – came on the final possession.
“You have to give Wilson Hall all the credit in the world,” said LMA head coach Robbie Briggs. “They came in and had a great game plan on defense. We were a little too impatient on offense and that’s on me.
“We made some big plays down the stretch that we had to have to win the game. I’m proud of the way we continued to battle.”
It didn’t look good for Laurence Manning when Baron defensive back Landon Van Patten intercepted Burgess Jordan – who alternates at quarterback with Osteen – and returned it 15 yards to the LMA 35. While Wilson Hall didn’t get a first down, punter Mills Herlong dropped a punt that died at the 4-yard line.
On the first play, Osteen looked as though he might get dropped in the end zone for a safety. Instead, he was able to stay alive and looked to be taking off to run. Instead, he pulled up short of the line of scrimmage and lofted a pass to Jordan, who got behind the secondary and stretched out to grab the ball for a 30-yard reception and get LMA out of the hole.
“I was just trying to keep it alive and make a play,” Osteen said. “I felt that pressure and I sure didn’t want a safety there. Then I saw Burgess and he stretched out and made a great catch.”
Osteen then had consecutive runs of three and 11 yards for first downs. A roughing the passer call moved the Swampcats to the WH 29 and Jordan followed with a 21-yard completion to Lee to set up the frantic final scenario.
Wilson Hall, which is the No. 6 seed in the playoffs while LMA is the No. 3 seed, took the opening kickoff and held the ball for over six minutes thanks to a couple of personal fouls against Laurence Manning. Though the Barons didn’t score, it set the tone for the game.
LMA did get a couple of first downs on its opening possession, but it was forced to punt. There was a high snap to Osteen, who also punts. Since WH wasn’t rushing anyone hard, he was able to get off the punt, but it went for only eight yards. That set Wilson Hall up at the LMA 47.
On first down, quarterback Jacob Cotton had the ball jarred loose, but it ended up in the hands of offensive lineman, who battled for seven yards. Cotton then had an 8-yard run for a first down at the 32.
Wilson Hall got a first down on fourth and one yard to go on a sneak by Cotton on the final play of the first quarter. On the first play of the second stanza, Graham Van Patten broke off an 18-yard run to set up first and goal at the 3. Landon Van Patten scored on the net play and Herlong’s extra point made it 7-0 with 11:44 left in the second quarter.
LMA tied the game on a 5-yard run by Jordan with 7:19 left. When it got the ball back late in the first half, Laurence Manning went deep to Taylor Lee on the first play and he caught the ball at the Wilson Hall 3. However, it was nullified by a chop block call against LMA.
The score was 7-7 at halftime and it remained that way through the third quarter. A 54-yard run by Graham Van Patten though set up Wilson Hall at the Swampcat 16.
The Barons scored on the second play of the final quarter on a 2-yard run by running back Nathan Harris with 11:30 left in the game. The extra point was no good after a Swampcat defender got a hand on the ball and it hit the crossbar and fell to the ground.
“We’ve got good players, but we’re having to play them both ways,” Jarecki said. “They run out of gas from doing that.”