By: Jim Steele
A couple of times in McKenzie's battle with visiting Trinity Christian Friday night, it seemed that the Rebels had gained, then regained the momentum.
The Rebs seemingly had control of the game early, then relinquished as the second half began, then regained early in the fourth after scoring on an unsuccessful TCA fake punt to lead 26-21. Things would never look so good again for McKenzie.
Trinity scored three times in the final 6:24 and left wth a crucial 43-26 district victory. This was one that got away.
TCA's Viktor Horton carried 29 times for 214 yards and a touchdown. Lion quarterback Matt Spurgeon came to life in the second half, finishing wth 7-15 passing for 178 and four TDs. The stunning figure, though, is the fact that TCA was penalized 14 times for 182 yards, including four personal foul penalties that resulted in the eventual ejection of one of its players. However, Trinity got hot at the right time.
"It was one of them deals where we let it slip away," said McKenzie coach Wade Comer. "I mean, we had opportunities, but just couldn't hold on."
The Rebels took a 10-0 lead into the dressing room, but Trinity scored with 8:56 to play in the third when Spurgeon hit Matt Jennings for a 50-yard touchdown. Spurgeon hit Kevin Davis at the 7:04 mark of the third. The Lions had edged ahead 14-10. TCA tacked another TD on as the fourth started when Horton raced 40 yards for the score. With the Lions leading 21-10, it seemed that the momentum had shifted away from the Rebels.
McKenzie responded on the first play of its next drive when senior quarterback Zach Jarrett hit Lane Horton for a 50-yard hookup of their own. Joseph Miller ran in the two-point conversion and the Rebels trailed 21-18. Trinity was stymied on its next possession and set up to punt from its own 38. The Lions attempted a fake punt that was stuffed at the 39. Two plays later, Miller ambledin from the 16, then ran in the conversion to give McKenzie a 26-21 lead. From there it appeared the Rebels had turned the corner with 6:24 left in the game.
Trinity would have none of it, scoring three TDs in a span of 3:27 to claim the victory.
McKenzie moved the ball well during its second possession, marching 89 yards in six plays, culminating in Miller's 22-yard scoring dash. Lucas Waddell booted the PAT and the Rebels led 7-0 with 3:19 to play. Miller carried 15 times for 109 yards.
With 3:03 to play in the half, Waddell nailed a 27-yard field goal and McKenzie held a 10-0 halftime advantage. Midway in the third, the game was delayed for 23 minutes when Murphy Watkins was injured. He was taken away by ambulance, but happily, returned to the sideline in the fourth quarter.
"We moved the ball well at times, but we still had some self-inflicted wounds out there," Comer said. "I was pleased on both sides of the ball. We need to execute better and clean some things up."
Jarrett was 16-33 for 195 yards with a touchdown and two picks.
Comer acknowledged the late onslaught by the Lions.
"They have a good running back and that wideout is a good receiver," he said. "If you lose leverage, they have speed and will make you pay."
Trinity improves to 4-1 and will host Union City this Friday night. Meanwhile, it doesn't get any easier for the 2-2 Rebels. They entertain 2-1 Waverly, the team that eliminated them from post-season last year.
"We have murderers row right now coming up, but that's all right. We just have to get healthy and get ready," Come said. "As long as we get our head back right, we can have a run in the playoffs."