Coaches always want the ball in the hands of their best player at crunch time.
G.W. Carver football coach Billy Gresham is no different.
“Great football players come through when their team is down and when the team needs them,” said Gresham, a second-year coach.
With Carver’s season on the brink ending, quarterback Jeremy Johnson stepped up to the challenge and handled the pressure to deliver a final drive that the Wolverine nation will be talking about for years.
On Friday night, Johnson connected on four consecutive clutch passes — including the go-ahead touchdown to Landy Capetillo with 15 seconds left — during the fourth quarter to rally the Wolverines to a 20-16 victory over Fairhope in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
“I’ve seen it over the past three years,” Gresham said. “It just shows the type caliber quarterback that he is. I love the way he’s matured over the years, and he’s just a special guy. This definitely was a huge win for Carver High School tonight.”
After taking a comfortable early lead, Carver’s offense just disappeared and Fairhope took the lead into the decisive quarter. With the Wolverines (11-1) forced to punt for the second straight time with 5:19 to go, Johnson’s chances of getting back on the field seemed slim due to the effective running attack of the home team.
“Man, I didn’t think I was going to get another chance,” said Johnson, who became overwhelmed with emotion when the final horn sounded at Fairhope Municipal Stadium. “I just went to the man upstairs and asked him to bless me with one more chance. I didn’t want my season to end.”
The Auburn commitment’s prayers were answered in the form of a big defensive stop by his teammates on third-and-3.
Carver took over on its own 40 with 2:04 left. Johnson linked up with Dreaquon Murphy, Antonio Dunn and Charles Standberry prior to hitting Capetillo in the back of the end zone to the much delight of the fans who made the three-hour drive from the Capital City.
“I thought it was over,” said Capetillo, who out leaped a defender for the game-winning score. “It feels so good right now. We fought for this one.”
It marks the first time Carver has advanced past the second round since 2008, when former coach Al Pogue guided the school to the semifinals as a 5A program.
A 4-yard quarterback TD run with 44 seconds left in the half provided the Pirates with a 13-10 edge. A successful fake field goal got Fairhope on the board to open the second period with a 9-yard touchdown pass.
“It was definitely a tough game to lose,” Fairhope first-year coach Adam Winegarden said. “Any time you lose a tough game in the playoffs and it’s your senior’s last game, its real disappointing because the journey for those guys is over.”
The Pirates have been knocked out of the postseason the past two seasons by a school representing the River Region. In 2011, Prattville bounced Fairhope (8-4) out in the quarterfinals here in route to winning the state championship.
Kicker Negee Clay drilled a pair of field goals — including a 24-yarder that tied the game at 13-13 in the third quarter — and Camdon Foster scored on a 15-yard burst up the middle to give Carver a double-digit lead at the conclusion of the first quarter.