Last Friday night in Okolona was one of the great examples of why high school football is so entertaining. It featured tremendous athletic ability, stomach churning intensity, absolute elation and take-you-to-your-knees heartbreak, all within just a couple of minutes.
Having seen Okolona play a few weeks earlier against Bruce, and win, I arrived fully aware of how explosive this Chieftain team is. I wasn’t certain if the Calhoun City fans, or more importantly their players, completely understood prior to kickoff. That awakening took place on the game’s first play from scrimmage when Rod Jones snatched an errant throw out of the air and like a fine tuned Lamborghini, went 0-50, or should I say 50 to goal line, in what seemed like 1.5 seconds.
‘City answered with the quick, yet bruising running of senior Levarious Varnado to drive down for a game-tying touchdown. Then Okolona answered, and the Wildcats answered back.
Back and forth we went until the final two minutes when Steele Liles sacked Okolona’s Jacolbi Heard for a 12 yard loss and appeared to put the game away with the Chieftains facing fourth and 22.
Then along came Jones.
Like a blur in the night, Jones streaked by the Wildcat secondary and Heard delivered a perfect strike. Jones never broke stride until he curved around the back of the end zone celebrating what most in the stadium believed was the game-winning touchdown.
What has most impressed me about the Wildcats under head coach Perry Liles is that whenever a big play needs to be made, somebody always steps up.
The Wildcats, undeterred by the fast-clicking clock, marched to midfield as the one minute mark passed by. The tension of possibly losing a region title began to drop like a late night fog over the visiting stands.
Facing third and ten, Chakel Gates scrambled out of the enclosing pocket and unleashed a rocket toward the visiting sideline where Travone Petty was hovering near the first down marker. At the last second, a Chieftain defender leaped and deflected the ball straight up into the air. It seemed to hang there forever before finally dropping softly into the waiting hands of Petty with no Chieftain within five yards of him.
He sprinted down the sideline and into the end zone with 33 seconds still on the clock as Wildcat fans erupted. Across the field you could see Chieftain players, coaches and fans sink in disbelief.
The way the night had played out, it was almost expected for something to happen on the ensuing kickoff and it did. It was muffed and Shaquille Wright recovered for the Wildcats to end the entertaining game.
Travone told me afterwards that the game-winning touchdown was the biggest play of his life.
“I just thank God for putting me in a position to be there,” he said.
I felt the same way, thankful to have been there to witness one of the best games I’ve seen in a while.
Email Joel McNeece at firstname.lastname@example.org & follow him on Twitter @joelmcneece