For three and a half quarters the state championship rematch between Clay Central and Pleasant Grove looked like a celebration of revenge for the Spartans. But Central put up a fight at the end and sent a message before finally losing for the first time in 15 games.
Pleasant Grove jumped out to a commanding lead, then staved off a furious Central comeback attempt to exact its revenge for last year’s state title game loss with a 37-30 win over Central in Lineville Friday.
Central trailed 21-3 at halftime and 37-16 in the fourth quarter. But the Vols scored a touchdown to cut it to 37-23, then recovered an onside kick and scored again to cut the lead to 37-30. Central then recovered a second onside kick with less than two minutes to play, but their hopes at a miracle comeback ended with an interception in the end zone on a last-second hail Mary attempt.
It was a frantic finish to a game that saw the Vols have to fight for every yard they gained.
Central was able to score 30 points despite mustering just 222 yards of total offense. Leading rusher Elisha McNeil was held to 59 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and no other Vols player rushed for more than 19 yards as the Spartans held Central under 100 yards rushing as a team.
Quarterback Boyd Ogles completed 15-of-25 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown to Carter Young, and Ogles and Terry Heflin both scored on short touchdown runs to give Central a fighting chance at the end.
The loss ends Central’s school record winning streak at 14 games and likely knocks them out of the number one ranking in the state for class 5A.
It also avenges last year's Central win in the 5A state championship game. Central won that game 31-27 after it stopped Pleasant Grove quarterback Zyquez Perryman on the 1-yard line on the game's final play.
If they meet again this year it will be in the state championship game, a scenario that isn't difficult to envision after Friday's result.
Central has now lost in week five in all three of its seasons under Danny Horn. The Vols will look to return to their winning ways this week at home against Talladega.