CANTON – About the time every fan in Pisgah Memorial Stadium was checking 50-50 tickets in hopes of taking home a $19,630 jackpot, Pisgah coach Brett Chappell intently paced the sidelines.
He and the Bears were plotting an unlikely comeback.
Trailing archrival Tuscola 17-7 with less than five minutes to go in regulation, Chappell’s squad electrified the home crowd with a collection of big plays that led to a 23-20 overtime victory in front of nearly 13,000 fans.
“Oh man, when you see a crowd like that, how can you not be happy if you’re a Haywood County resident to watch a ballgame like this,” said Chappell, whose squad has won four straight over the Mountaineers. “It should make everybody here proud.”
Following Tuscola’s overtime field goal, Pisgah’s Isaiah Fisher shook off a bruising collision near the goal line then fell forward into the end zone for the winning points on a 5-yard run.
It was the second straight year overtime was required to settle the battle for Haywood County.
“I just knew I had to score, had to punch it in, had to help my team out,” Fisher said. “Seeing everybody up in the stands was just amazing. Glad they’re here. Pisgah fans – there’s nothing better.”
After Tanner Fox’s 26-yard field goal pulled Pisgah within 10 at the 2:02 mark, Houston Rogers recovered an onside kick to keep the Bears’ hopes alive.
Sophomore quarterback Tanner Wike escaped several would-be tacklers then found Chase Henson for a 45-yard pass that set up Michael Parrott’s game-tying, 3-yard dive.
Pisgah’s defense allowed zero points in the second half and came up huge in overtime to set up Fisher’s decisive touchdown.
“Man, it’s a great feeling,” Rogers said. “There’s 11 men out on the field, and it’s a great win for the team and coaches. … The electricity was crazy. Walking across the bridge at 5:45 all the support of family and the community; the support is unbelievable. We couldn’t do it without them.”
Wike completed 19 of 25 yards for 167 yards. For Tuscola, Caleb Ferguson rushed for 108 yards on 20 totes.
As had happened in so many other games this season, Tuscola took a commanding lead in the first half.
But as the overflow crowd reminded every player on both teams, this was no ordinary game.
After the break, Tuscola’s offense sputtered just as Pisgah’s caught fire. The Mountaineers played the second half without injured starting offensive linemen Joey Diienno and Austin Goforth.
“Gosh, I’ve been doing this a long time and never seen anything like it,” Tuscola coach Tommy Pursley said. “I thought we could protect the 17-point lead at halftime, but then a whole series of things happened on both sides. We missed opportunities and gave them opportunities.”
Tuscola took advantage of multiple Pisgah miscues to take a 17-0 halftime lead.
After Tuscola took a 3-0 lead, Pisgah’s Trey Morgan wasn’t able to punt after a high snap and got tackled deep in the Bears’ territory.
Three plays later, Elijah Trantham reeled in a tipped pass for a 17-yard touchdown that pushed the visitors’ lead to 10.
A fumble ended a promising Pisgah drive on the next possession, and Tuscola responded with a 91-yard march that concluded with a 4-yard scoring run by Grayson Perkins.
But Chappell had a message for his team at the break.
“We told our kids at halftime that we didn’t get any breaks in that first half; everything was going against us,” said Chappell, whose team had Fox’s fake-kick touchdown called back on a holding penalty right before intermission. “We got in (the locker room), and we were down a little bit. … We said over and over and over: ‘Don’t walk out of this locker room if you don’t believe.’ And our kids rallied. Man, they rallied.”