By: Jim Steele
CAMDEN - McKenzie Middle School's football team hasn't had a losing season since 2004 and Tuesday night, it appeared the streak was going to end in a big, big way.
Host Camden, Tuesday night, scored on two long touchdown passes and returned an interception for a score and took a 20-0 first-quarter lead. The Lions were on the express lane for a mercy-rule victory.
Someone forgot to clue in the Rebels.
They scored 26 unanswered points to lead 26-20, watched Camden tie the game an force overtime.
In the extra session, on third down, McKenzie quarterback Janson Davis hit Keenan Taylor in the back left corner of the end zone for the game-winning 11-yard TD pass. The Rebels broke a three-game skid with a 32-26 victory over the shell-shocked Lions.
"It was a tale of two halves and if anybody left after the first half and found out we won, they are probably shocked right now," said MMS coach Brad Chappell. "I'm shocked myself."
Taylor had 317 all-purpose yards, including a 72 yard interception return just before the first half ended and an 80-yard kickoff return to open the second half. He had 259 return yards, likely an MMS record.
"Keenan carried us," said Chappell. "And on that last play, we said let's put it in his hands and see what happens. If we didn't get it right there, we were going back and try to get it to him somewhere else."
The Rebels are now 4-3 and accepted a bid to play in the mckenzierebels.com Bowl at Bethel University next week. Date, time and opponent will be announced soon.
The Rebels trailed 20-6 at the half, when Taylor zigged and zagged across the field for an 80-yard kickoff return. The PAT pass failed, but the Rebels cut the lead to eight, 20-12.
Camden's Gavin Miller picked off a Rebel pass and the Lions had the ball on their own 33. On the next play after the pick, McKenzie's Clint Daily broke on a pass from Caleb Rushing, stepped in front of the receiver and ran, unabated, to the end zone. Holden Stanfill ran in the deuce to tie the game at 20 and began an improbable finish.
Late in the third, the Rebels stopped Camden on downs and took over. MMS marched 68 yards in 11 plays when Stanfill scored from the 6 with 3:33 to play. MMS took a 26-20 lead. Stanfill had 21 carries for 103 yards to lead the Rebel ground attack.
Camden, to its credit, capped an eight-play, 45 yard drive with a 6-yard TD pass from Rushing to Jake Scott with :33 to play. That tied the game at 26.
On the ensuing kickoff, Taylor took the boot an raced for what appeared to be a game-clinching TD. But he stepped out of bounds at the 39. MHS tried a pass and lateral play to Lowrance, who pitched the ball to Taylor. Taylor was forced down at the 18. After a facemask penalty, the Rebels were knocking at the door with seconds left, but fumbled the ball away.
In overtime, the Rebels stopped Camden in four plays, including a big third-down tackle-for-loss by Lorenzo Townes, that cost Camden 4 yards.
"Lorenzo played the best game all year and was a leader," said Chappell. "He stayed out there all game long and pancaked people and he makes a huge difference when he plays like he's capable of."
The Rebels stopped Camden on downs, took over and score the winning TD on the third-down play from Davis to Taylor.
But it looked like the Rebels were going to get an early start to basketball. Camden's Hayden Fry got behind Rebel defenders and hauled in a 46-yard TD aerial from Rushing just 50 seconds into the game. Under four minutes later, Fry returned an interception 59 yards for a 14-0 lead. After another interception, the Lions scored again on a 47-yard pass from Rushing to Kentrell Hudson. Camden led 20-0.
"I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Judging by what our kids were looking like on the sideline in the first quarter and the way they were acting, I thought it would be 50-0," said Chappell. "We kept our cool."
Stanfill led the Rebel defense with seven tackles. He had a tackle for loss, a fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry. Taylor had six stops and an interception. Tyree Owens had six stoks and a pass break-up.
Fry had 227 all-purpose yards to lead Camden. He had 69 yars rushing, 63 yards receiving an 95 yards in returns. He also had five stops to go with two interceptions.