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By GOOSE LINDSAY
A season full of heartbreaking losses ended with the biggest heartbreaker of all Friday night for the Kingston Yellow Jackets as Vic King’s squad dropped a 20-14 decision at Austin-East in double overtime in the second round of the TSSAA Class AAA playoffs.
“I’m proud of our kids for how hard they played tonight and all season,” Jacket head coach Vic King said following the loss. “I can’t ask for anything more than they gave tonight. I’m also proud of our coaches. They had a great game plan tonight and they’ve done a heck of a job this season.”
Entering Friday’s contest, Kingston had lost three games on the season and all three could have easily been victories as the Jackets lost 24-17 to Anderson County in double overtime, they lost to Knoxville Catholic 8-7 when the Irish converted a two-point conversion with less than two minutes to play, and they lost 18-14 two weeks ago at Austin-East when QB Antoine Dean scored the game-winning touchdown with 1:18 left to play.
In all three of those losses, the Jackets were one play away from winning. That was the case again Friday night as the Jackets had a chance to win at the end of the first overtime period.
After holding Austin-East scoreless on their possession, Kingston elected to not chance a turnover and immediately go for the game-winning field goal. The Jackets were backed up five yards for a delay of game penalty then Andy Spellman’s 32-yard field goal was blocked by the middle of the Roadrunner line.
“I thought we were going to make the field goal and go to the house,” King said. “I didn’t agree with the delay penalty, but that five yards wasn’t a problem for Andy; he just hit it a little low and they made a play.”
In the second overtime, Austin-East intercepted a Kingston pass in the end zone then Dean again was the hero for the Roadrunners as he avoided a sack on third-and-six before finding Charles Watts in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
The rest of the game was close throughout and featured a lot of hard hitting on both sides.
Both teams punted to end their first possession, but the Roadrunners got the first big break of the game midway through the opening period when they intercepted James Sams’ halfback pass at the Austin-East 39.
The Roadrunners would pick up four first downs and drive the ball all the way to the Jacket eight before a fumbled pitch and three Roadrunner penalties killed the drive.
Neither team did much the rest of the quarter and the second period opened with an exchange of punts, but both offenses would come to life before the first half ended.
Austin-East struck first as the Roadrunners drove 42 yards in eight plays with Watts scoring on a six-yard run to make the score 7-0 with 3:57 to play in the first half.
Kingston answered with a seven-play, 70-yard drive that ended in a four-yard pass from Matt Francis to Brad Riddick.
Riddick and Francis had big plays earlier in the drive as Francis completed a 20-yard pass to Alex Roberts while Riddick had an 18-yard run.
Spellman’s PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 54.7 seconds left in the opening half.
The momentum stayed with the Jackets to start the second half as Austin-East punted to start the third period then Kingston marched 79 yards in 12 plays to take a 14-7 lead with 2:32 left in the quarter.
Kingston ran the ball on nine of the 12 plays, but two of the passes where the biggest plays of the drive as Francis hooked up with TE Matt Courteau early in the drive for 33 yards then Francis found Sams on fourth-and-three for a 17-yard touchdown.
The Jackets held the lead for much of the final period, but the final few minutes again proved unkind for Kingston as Austin-East drove 64 yards in 11 plays to tied the score at 14-14 with 1:30 left to play.
Dean completed six of seven passes on the drive for 52 yards, but Jamarcus Davis scored the touchdown on a four-yard run.
Kingston was unable to mount a drive at the end of regulation and a late Hail Mary pass by Austin-East fell incomplete.
Austin-East won the total yardage battle, 241-198.
Kingston ended the night with 115 yards on 38 carries while the Jackets completed five of 11 passes for 83 yards. Austin-East had 136 yards rushing on 38 attempts and 105 yards passing, completing 13 of 18 attempts.
Kingston’s season ends with an 8-4 record while Austin-East (10-2) will play at Knoxville Catholic (12-0) Friday night in the TSSAA Class AAA quarterfinals.
Rushing- Sams 14-54, Roberts 12-45, Riddick 7-29, Francis 4-(-9), Team 1-(-4).
Passing- Francis 5-10 for 83 yards with 1 INT., Sams 0-1 with 1 INT.
Receiving- Sams 1-17 with 1 TD, Courteau 1-33, Roberts 2-29, Riddick 1-6 with 1 TD.