By Dens House / The Endzone Staff
MANCHESTER — Even though his team just won its second game in a row with a thrilling 28-26 overtime victory over Clay County, South Laurel coach Matt Rhymer wanted to keep everything in perspective.
“We beat an 0-3 team in overtime,” Rhymer said. “Still, it’s a big win. I’m proud of my team. We have won two games in a row; that hasn’t happened around here in a while.”
The Cards did that twice in 2011 on a team that would finish 5-6.
Rhymer said prior to the game that his team would win by two points, only he wasn’t expecting such a high-scoring affair. “I would have rather it been 2-0,” he said.
The game was tied 20-20 at the end of regulation forcing overtime to decide a winner. The Cards got the ball first and it took them just two plays for quarterback Jonathan Jenkins to carry it in from three yards out. Josh Phelps, who came into run in the second half after Landon Bray went down with a knee injury, ran in the two-point conversion to make it 28-20.
“Losing Bray is tough,” Rhymer said.
Clay would also lose Wes Wolfe to a broken arm later in the game.
Now it was Clay’s turn to try and send the game into a second overtime. On the first play from the 10, the Tigers were flagged for holding, moving the ball back to the 16. Quarterback Ryan Holland then found Nathan Dobbs, who made it to the seven. Sam Carr then carried it in from there to cut the lead to 28-26.
Carr got the pitch from Holland and tried to race around the right side on the two-point conversion, but he was smothered by four South Laurel defenders, and the Cards escaped with the two-point win.
“To come here and get a win is impressive,” Rhymer said.
South Laurel was able to turn two Clay County fumbles into points, something that Rhymer was pleased with. “A coach is always happy when his team can do that,” he said.
The first came after South’s opening possession of the game ended when Jenkins was forced to punt. Carr fielded the ball, but a hit by Taylor Morris stripped him of the ball and the Cards recovered on the Clay County eight-yard line.
Four plays later, Jenkins carried it over from one yard out. The point after failed, leaving South with a 6-0 lead with 6:44 left in the first quarter. That’s how the first quarter would end.
The second came at the start of the second half when Arnold Arnett fielded the kickoff at the five and returned it to the South 40, where he coughed up the ball and South recovered on its own 35 with a 14-12 lead.
Jenkins marched the team down the field in 11 plays, capped off by Jacob Hale carrying it in from 17 yards out with 5:54 left. The point after was blocked, but South was still up on the Tigers, 20-12.
In between those scores, Clay County would tie the game at 6-6 on a one-yard plunge by Holland, then take a 12-6 lead when Holland hooked up with Dobbs on a 32-yard score with 9:07 left in the first half.
Now down six, the Cards embarked on a long, time consuming drive that started on their own 27 with 8:58 left and culminated on another one-yard run by Jenkins with 1:09 remaining. Hale ran in the two-point conversion for the 14-12 lead. A key play was a fourth-and-four that saw South go for it from the seven yard line instead of trying for a field goal.
“When you are trying to build something you go for it,” Rhymer said. “If we were the No. 2 team in the state we probably would have settled for the field goal. I was also really proud of that long drive.”
After South took a 20-12 lead, on the ensuing kickoff, Carr ran it back 86 yards for the score. Arnett scored the two-point conversion, tying the game at 20-20.
Early in the fourth quarter a high snap sailed over the head of Holland and it looked like South Laurel’s Armando Maldonado recovered but the officials ruled that Carr had actually recovered the ball first and was down it when it squirted free.
Neither team could move the ball over the final six minutes of the game, sending it into overtime where South Laurel prevailed.
“We are still trying to find our way and still have a lot of mistakes to correct,” Rhymer said. “But to come over here and win says a lot for the discipline of our team and the belief the boys have in what we are doing. Carr is a phenomenal runner. I knew coming over it was going to be a tough game.”
The Cards will now host Corbin this Friday.
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