Shaun Hamilton sprinted toward the G.W. Carver bench, jumped and slid like he was in a water park.
Jeremy Johnson leaped toward the stands, high-fiving every fan he could reach and celebrating with gusto.
The Wolverines, after surviving four last-second throws toward the end zone, finally secured a 26-20 win over Spain Park in Friday’s Class 6A quarterfinals at Cramton Bowl.
“Not being on the field and having to watch is tough,” Johnson said. “Now, I know what it feels like.
“I just kneeled over there, watched and prayed, and I could feel my heart start beating real fast.”
The Wolverines (12-1) held off the Jaguars (10-3) twice in the final quarter to reach the state semifinals for the third time in school history.
Carver, which hosts Opelika next week, has never reached the state finals.
“This is what you work for,” Carver coach Billy Gresham said. “You don’t work to win region championships or just football games. You put in all the time and effort to have a chance to win a state championship.
“We’re almost there.”
But for a late defensive stand, particularly by safety Shaun Rupert, the Wolverines might be fully focused on basketball today.
Rupert had three pass breakups — and two near-interceptions — in the final 30 seconds. Spain Park, facing first-and-10 at the Carver 22, threw incomplete passes on the game’s final four plays.
Rupert broke up the final pass at around the 5.
“I saw the ball coming, closed my eyes and dived in,” Rupert said. “I hoped I would knock it out.”
Spain Park also reached the Carver 22 on its previous possession before Carver turned away the Jags.
On third-and-5 at the 22, Carver’s Johnny Grant sacked quarterback Nick Mullens for a 12-yard loss. On fourth down, Jon Michael Edwards crushed Mullens just as he threw the ball.
Mullens, whom Johnson said was “vastly underrated” by colleges, converted two third-and-long passes and a fourth-down run in the final drive. He finished 24-of-34 for 297 yards and a touchdown.
“My defense, I love on them every day,” Johnson said. “I pick on them a lot, too, but they mean so much to me.
“Lord knows they’re the best in the state.”
Johnson finished 23-of-27 for 298 yards and ran 18 times for 79 yards and a touchdown, while running back Harvey Harris had 154 yards rushing and three first-half touchdowns on 23 carries. Draequon Murphy caught eight balls for 120 yards.
But the starting secondary, despite allowing its first TD pass of the year, was the star Friday.
“We have lockdown defensive backs,” Harris said. “What they did is no surprise to us. They always do it.
“It’s in their blood.”