The Jay Royals were one quarter away from picking up their first win of the season and potentially stealing a playoff spot from rival Northview on their home turf.
But Luke Ward and the Chiefs weren’t about to let that happen.
The Chiefs rattled off 27 consecutive points in the second half, storming back from a 19-7 deficit to win 40-25 Friday night in Northview.
“There was very little time where I thought we outplayed them effort and execution-wise,” Northview head coach Derek Marshman said. “So a lot of credit goes to Jay. It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it.”
Ward rushed for two touchdowns, threw an 85-yard touchdown to Neikel Robinson and returned an interception for a touchdown in the Chiefs’ fourth-quarter onslaught.
The Chiefs’ star playmaker had a hand in all six of Northview’s touchdowns, rushing for three, passing for two and pitching in with the defensive touchdown that sealed the comeback win.
“We had our heads down a little bit because we were down 19-7, you know, that’s not ever a good thing,” Ward said. “We finally rallied around each other and got back to playing Northview football.”
Ward could’ve let his own head drop after tossing a pick-six that led to Jay’s 19-7 lead.
But the Chief defense picked up their quarterback, forcing a Jay fumble in its own territory. Northview continued going backwards before Ward hit Robinson on fourth-and-long on a 45-yard touchdown.
“They were playing ball control and possession so we had to have [the turnover],” Marshman said. “We needed them off the field quickly. One or two more first downs and that could’ve been four or five minutes off the clock.”
Jay clung to their slim 19-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter before the Royal dam finally broke.
Ward scampered in on the first play of the final quarter to restore Northview’s lead. After a Jay three-and-out, Ward hit Robinson on an 85-yard touchdown that visibly deflated the Royals.
“We’ve been playing since my ninth grade year,” Robinson said. “It’s great to have that connection with him. He’s a heckuva player and the leader on the team.”
Ward then intercepted the first play of Jay’s next drive, returning it for a touchdown that gave the Chiefs’ more than enough insurance.
The win eliminates Jay (0-8, 0-2) from playoff contention and makes Northview’s matchup with Baker in two weeks a district decider.
Though it’s a big game, the Chiefs aren’t looking that far ahead. They’ve still got their final home game against South Walton to worry about.
“We can’t look ahead because that’s a big challenge,” Robinson said. “That’s a home game and we want to win that game.”
Despite the crushing loss, both teams lined up and shook hands after the game in a display of sportsmanship between the rival schools.
“That came down to the coach’s discretion with non-county teams,” Marshman said. “That’s the right thing to do. It would’ve been awful to not be able to go over there and shake those kids’ hands and tell them what an awesome job they did.”