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By GOOSE LINDSAY
The Denver Broncos have “The Drive”, the Tennessee Titans have the “Music City Miracle”, and now the Rockwood Tigers have “The Comeback”, as John Webb’s squad erased a 14-0 second half deficit with 21 unanswered points to give the Tigers a 21-14 victory at Oneida Friday night in the second round of the TSSAA Class AA playoffs.
“We just kept fighting,” Tiger head coach John Webb said after the game. “Things weren’t necessarily going our way, but our guys didn’t quit. We felt coming in if we could get them into the fourth quarter that we could win and that’s what happened.”
Rockwood’s comeback was capped by a memorable late drive as Tiger QB Lucas Jolley capped a seven-play, 57-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run with 9.8 seconds left. Jolley, however, wasn’t supposed to head up field on the play. The play was a called pass play and Jolley was supposed to throw the ball through the end zone if no one was open because the Tigers were out of time outs and the clock would have expired if Jolley was tackled short of the goal line.
“I was supposed to throw it away,” Jolley said. “But when I looked up it was wide open. I knew I had to get it in right there; it was time to make a play.”
“I thought Lord have mercy,” Webb said about Jolley tucking the ball and running instead of throwing the ball away. “But Lucas is a playmaker and dang if he didn’t make a huge play for us right there.”
Jolley’s late heroics made up for what was a rough night up till that point for the Tiger signal caller. Heading into Rockwood’s final drive, Jolley had completed just four passes while throwing four interceptions in the first three periods of play.
“The coaches kept telling me to keep my head up,” Jolley said. “I said a prayer to God to help me and I had better vision later on.”
Jolley’s first pick was the most costly as it came on Rockwood’s first possession and set up Oneida’s first score as the Indians drove 47 yards in five plays with Sam Woodard scoring on a one-yard run to make the score 7-0 with 4:26 left in the first quarter.
The rest of the half was pretty much the same story for the Tiger offense. Rockwood did have seven first downs and 112 yards in the first half of play, but three of the Tigers four first half possessions ended in interceptions and the Tigers also fumbled away a punt in the first half.
However, unlike the first turnover, the Indians couldn’t turn the next three turnovers into points as the Tigers defense came up with two big stops in the first half.
The first stop came after the fumbled punt as Oneida had the ball at the Tiger 22 before Chris Harness picked off a pass in the end zone.
Rockwood’s second stop was even bigger as the Indians drove from their own 40 to the Tiger one before Rockwood’s defense stiffened and took over on downs near the goal line.
“That was huge right there,” Webb said of his team’s goal line stand. “Our defense stepped up all night long. Our coaches had a good game plan and our kids did a good job of making plays.”
The second half opened with Oneida getting a solid kick return from Woodard and that set the stage for a seven-play, 45-yard scoring capped by a four-yard run from Woodard that gave the Indians a 14-0 lead with 9:08 left in the third period.
That’s when the comeback started.
Following the kickoff, the Tigers drove 68 yards in eight plays with Jeff Inman scoring on a one yard run on fourth-and-goal. The score was set up with a 42-yard pass from Jolley to Harness.
Jared Breazeale added the PAT to cut the Indian lead to 14-7 with 5:13 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers defense then produced a three-and-out and the Tiger offense seemed ready to put more points on the board as they drove from their own 32 to the Indian 24, but a fumbled snap on third-and-two led to an interception on fourth down as Oneida took the seven-point lead into the fourth period of play.
Oneida seemed to have gotten the momentum back early in the fourth period as they pushed to midfield, but this time the turnover bug bit Oneida as the Tigers recovered an Oneida fumble at the Indian 45.
Eight plays later, Inman plowed into the end zone from the five as Rockwood pulled even at 14-14 with 6:36 left to play.
Rockwood’s defense produced another turnover on Oneida’s next possession as Harness picked off another pass at the Tiger 43 with 3:54 left in the contest.
Rockwood appeared heading for a three-and-out when Jolley and sophomore Brendan Kirkland hooked up for what will be the catch of the year in “Tiger Town.” Facing third-and-14, Jolley threw deep where a sliding Kirkland had the ball bounce off his chest, but while on the ground, Kirkland snagged the ball just before the ball hit the turf for a 42-yard gain to the Indian 19.
From there it was a race against the clock. The Tigers ran the ball four straight plays and had the ball at the Indian five when they called their last time out with 16.4 seconds left. That’s when Rockwood’s called pass turned into the biggest run of the year as Jolley made the score 21-14 with 9.8 seconds left.
Rockwood’s defense sealed the deal with another turnover as Cameron Webster picked off a pass on the final play of the game.
Rockwood ended the game with 317 yards of total offense with 195 of those yards coming on 46 carries while Jolley completed five of 11 passes for 122 yards. Inman led the ground game with 83 yards and two TDs on 19 carries while Davey Templeton added 72 yards on 17 attempts.
Oneida ended the evening with 207 yards on 41 snaps. The Indians ran the ball 27 times for 91 yards while QB Houston Hood completed six of 14 passes for 116 yards.
Up next for Rockwood (10-2) is a trip to Hampton (10-1) in the quarterfinal round of the Class AA playoffs.
“I don’t know a lot about them yet, but they’re kind of like us in they want to line it up and pound it at you,” Webb said.
“Hampton is going to be tough,” Jolley added. “We can’t be a second half team there. We’re going to have to be ready the whole game.”
Rushing- Inman 19-83 with 2 TDs, Templeton 17-72, Beasley 6-25, Smith 1-5, Jolley 3-10 with 1 TD.
Passing- Jolley 5-11 for 122 yards with 4 INTs.
Receiving- Templeton 2-25, Beasley 1-13, Harness 1-42, Kirkland 1-30.