The Bruce Trojans trailed most of the night, but made the clutch plays down the stretch for a 21-20 playoff win on the road at Hollandale-Simmons.
Trailing 20-14, Bruce QB Donta Armstrong led a 70-yard touchdown drive to put the Trojans on top for the first time all night. The drive appeared in jeopardy after a penalty, one of 28 combined among both teams, put the Trojans in a fourth and goal situation from the Simmons' 11 yard line. But Armstrong scrambled left, turned the corner and successfully dove for the pylon for the game-tying touchdown.
"It's like a light switch comes on for Donta in the big moment," Bruce Coach James Ray said. "When the ball's in his hands great things can happen. I'm proud of him for his determination. He's a great competitor."
"This was a hard fought game," Armstrong said. "They have a really good team. We responded when we had to and got the job done."
Tyler Donovan added the extra point for the 21-20 advantage with just over four minutes to play in the game.
Simmons then turned to their sophomore RB Tokir Winters, who rushed for 265 yards on 20 carries in the game. He led the Blue Devils inside the Bruce 20 where they faced a fourth and two with one minute left on the clock.
Winters took the hand-off and was immediately met in the backfield by Bruce defensive tackle Bailey Nix, who was then joined by a host of Trojan tacklers who drove Winters backwards for the game-winning stop.
"Our guys could have given up easy at any time but they hung in there and kept battling," Ray said. "We've had a bend but don't break defense all year and that's what we were tonight."
Simmons QB Roy Halum put the Devils in front early 6-0 with a 20-yard run. That held up until the final seconds of the first half when Armstrong capped an 80-yard scoring march for the Trojans with a 2-yard touchdown run. The extra point was blocked for a 6-6 game at the half.
Simmons pushed the lead to 14-6 on the opening drive of the second half behind the running of Winters. He scored on a 3-yard run and then added the 2-point conversion.
Bruce tied the game at 14 on a 3-yard run by Jay Johnson and a pass from Armstrong to Latrell Marks for the 2-point conversion.
On the first offensive play following that Bruce touchdown, Winters reached the corner and raced 80 yards for a touchdown for a 20-14 Simmons lead. The Bruce defense stopped his run up the middle on the 2-point try setting up the Trojans' touchdown march in the final minutes.
"We're proud to advance to next week and look forward to seeing everybody at Trojan Field next Friday night," Ray said.
Bruce, 7-3, will host Baldwyn next Friday in the second round of the playoffs. The Bearcats, 9-3, winners of Region 1-2A, defeated West Tallahatchie 44-22 in their playoff opener.