Wadley's 14-12 win over Victory Christian Friday had a lot of what you might expect from a team playing so many young players. Everything that should have been difficult was, and everything that should have been easy wasn't.
But in the end Wadley got the plays it needed to come away with a heart-pounding win and remain unbeaten in region play.
No player exemplified this up-and-down trend more than junior Lakevion O'Neal, who scored a touchdown and then the deciding two-point conversion on a pair of gutsy short-yardage runs, then lost a pair of fumbles (one out of the victory formation in the game's final minute) before hauling in an interception in the end zone as time expired to seal the win.
Or maybe you could highlight the play of eighth-grade defensive back Mason Wilkerson, who got burned on a couple of deep passes early in the game, then came up with a clutch interception in the fourth quarter.
Wherever you looked there were young players making an impact while learning on the job, and most importantly they did those things while leading Wadley to a win.
After an almost scoreless first half, Victory Christian finally broke the plane of the end zone to take a 6-0 lead with 4:06 left in the second quarter.
Even though it was so late in the half it was just the second possession of the game for the Lions after both Wadley and Victory Christian put together long, time-consuming drives that ended with no points.
But once Wadley fell behind they wasted no time catching right back up.
Cortavion Lynch, a seventh grader, returned the ensuing kicking 68 yards for a Wadley touchdown that tied the score 6-6.
But Victory Christian made the most of the 3:47 left on the clock as they marched 69 yards on 10 plays to regain the lead 12-6 with 18 seconds remaining in the half.
Then, much like in the first half, the teams settled into a struggle of defense and field position. But that would only set up the maddeningly dramatic finish.
It's telling that we're this far into the game story and we have yet to mention Wadley's leading rusher in the game, Jacob Marable.
But Marable came through in a big way on Wadley's penultimate drive, an 85-yard march in which the junior running back accounted for 62 of those yards (and sustained a late hit that tacked on 15 more).
O'Neal cashed in the drive from two yards out to tie the game at 12-12, then extended the football across the goal line as he was tackled to convert the all-important 2-point try that proved to be the game-winning points.
On the second play of the following Victory Christian possession, Wilkerson stepped in front of a pass and returned it to the Lions' 25-yard line, putting Wadley in position to potentially run out the clock.
They would have done just that after Marable converted on fourth-and-5 from the 20 with just over a minute to play, but with Wadley in the victory formation O'Neal didn't get the exchange from the center cleanly and lost the football.
Victory Christian then put together a feverish drive to get to the Wadley 36-yard line with five seconds to go. But O'Neal gained full redemption by claiming a jump ball in the end zone as time ran out.
Marable finished with 153 yards on 18 carries to pace Wadley's offense, while Jaquez Wilkes added 66 yards on 16 carries.
The win keeps Wadley (2-2) unbeaten in region play (2-0) and atop the standings in 1A, Region 5 going into next week's game against Winterboro.
RCHS 42, Ranburne 27
Clay Central 55, Elmore County 6
Ragland 15, Woodland 6
Be sure to read up on all of these game in next week's print edition of the Randolph Leader.