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In a cruel denial of what could have been a record setting night for RCHS, Walter Wellborn running back Jabari Williams scored the game-winning touchdown with 2.2 seconds left in the game as the Panthers claimed a 30-25 win over the Tigers in a back-and-forth nailbiter.
The RCHS loss kept head coach Pat Prestridge stuck on 147 career wins at the school, where he is tied with Ron Watters for the most ever. A win Friday would have given Prestridge the record all by his lonesome, but he’ll have to wait at least one more week to earn that distinction.
As if that weren’t enough of a dagger, the game also gave RCHS its first loss of the season and put Wellborn on the inside track for the region title.
The game featured two teams with similar strengths as both sides relied heavily on their run game to move the football. The teams combined to complete a total of four passes (on 10 attempts). The rest of the game was smashmouth football, with neither team gaining the deciding edge until the very end.
RCHS came out hot and scored on their first two possession to take a 12-0 lead into the second quarter. But they left the door cracked when a bad punt snap sailed over punter Michael Ennis’s head and resulted in a first down for Walter Wellborn on the RCHS 14-yard line. The Panthers needed just one play to cover that distance as Williams ran it in to cut the lead to 12-7. From then on it was a high-intensity, strong-willed game between two teams battling for region supremacy.
The lead changed hands five times with the two teams alternating scores for the remainder of the contest.
RCHS took a 25-22 lead with 4:06 left in the game on a scintillating 72-yard catch and run by Mo Winston. It was just the second completion for quarterback Avion Willis, but both of them came on that same fourth-quarter possession.
A touchback on the ensuing kickoff put 80 yards between Wellborn and victory with 4:06 to go. A 15-yard horsecollar penalty against RCHS seemed to jump-start that drive as the Panthers worked their way down the field, attempting to manage the clock.
Williams, who ran for 50 yards on six carries on the drive, converted a third-and-two from the RCHS 11-yard line to set up a first-and-goal from the 2 with about 17 seconds and counting on the clock. The two teams – both out of timeouts at that point – lined up quickly for the next snap, but RCHS jumped offsides for clock-stopping penalty. They stuffed the next play for no gain, but again a hurried snapped caught the Tigers jumping into the neutral zone, and Wellborn was able to get the final play into the hands of Williams for the game-winner.
Winston led the Tigers offensively with 112 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, to go along with his 72-yard scoring catch. Amari Molden finished with 50 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
The teams each scored four touchdowns but the PATs proved to be the difference. RCHS made just one 1-point PAT, while Wellborn made good on three two-point tries.
RCHS falls to 6-1 with the loss, while Wellborn goes to 5-2 with the win. Wellborn remains unbeaten in region play and would need to lose both of its remaining region games – against Weaver and Saks – in order for RCHS to overtake them in the standings. RCHS can still finish at least second and get a home playoff game in the first round if they can win their remaining two region games against Beulah and Dadeville.
Handley 51, Talladega 13 (Thursday)
Handley is in the playoffs thanks to their win Thursday and Munford’s loss to Jacksonville Friday. Handley can secure the region championship with a win next week against Cleburne County.
Wadley 34, Victory Christian 0
Wadley claimed a playoff spot with their win on Friday, and – thanks to Winterboro’s loss to Ragland – the Bulldogs can secure the top spot in the region with a win either next week against Winterboro or on October 27 against Talladega County Central.
Clay Central 48, Sylacauga 0
The Vols will be the top seed out of 5A, Region 4 thanks to their win over Sylacauga and Beauregard’s loss to Elmore County, no matter what happens in the Central-Beauregard game next week.
Vincent 41, Woodland 7
Isabella 29, Ranburne 25