Somehow, some way, the Wetumpka Indians found themselves five yards away from possibly scoring their second upset in as many weeks. Heavily favored McGill-Toolen couldn’t put away the pesky Indians and here they were, just a few yards away from following up last week’s upset over Daphne with a win over the Yellow Jackets.
It didn’t happen. Marc Valle’e came slanting through on third down and tripped up Charlie Crenshaw for a yard loss, then the Yellow Jacket defense swarmed over Crenshaw on fourth down, hurrying his throw back to quarterback Sam Britton that fell incomplete, allowing McGill-Toolen to hold on for a 24-20 win in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Friday.
“It was just a really good battle by two really good 6A football teams,” McGill-Toolen coach Bart Sessions said. “We were just fortunate to come on the road and get a win. This time of year, we’ll take them any way we can get them.”
McGill-Toolen (11-1) will remain on the road, traveling to Smiths Station next week for the quarterfinals of the playoffs, while Wetumpka (7-5) saw its improbable run come to a halt but not before throwing a huge scare into the Yellow Jackets with grim determination and an opportunistic offense.
“That’s the kind of people they’ve been all year,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “A lot of people saw those four losses (in the middle of the season) and wrote us off, they didn’t think we could turn it around, but we believed in the young men we were coaching. Words can’t describe what an honor it is to coach a group of young men like this that go out against all odds, when things are going against us, to make plays. That’s why we coach.”
Wetumpka took a fumbled punt by McGill-Toolen and turned it into a 10-play drive that ended with Crenshaw’s 1-yard run and a 7-0 lead; an incredible 17-play drive in the second quarter that tied the game at 14-14; and a fourth-quarter interception that would give the Indians one last shot at victory.
In between, the Yellow Jackets dominated the game with the running of Ito Smith, who had 189 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 25 carries, and the passing of Harry Sattlewhite, who completed 13-of-19 passes for 160 yards, enough to open up the middle for Smith.
“My line stepped up and did a great job of blocking, the wideouts did a great job of blocking, Harry did a good job throwing the ball,” said Smith, who now has 1,387 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. “I think (the running game opened up in the second half because of) Harry and his passing game. The line started opening some holes. I guess they had to settle in and then they started gashing them.”
Even while they were being “gashed” by Smith and the Yellow Jackets, Wetumpka players refused to give in, using a 32-yard touchdown run by backup tailback Monty Cross to trim the McGill lead to 24-20 just 13 seconds into the fourth quarter. Perry, spotting the Yellow Jackets’ special teams players on the field after an offside penalty on the extra point, rushed his offense back on the field for a two-point conversion but couldn’t get the play called in time.
When they finally ran the play, linebacker Russell Reilly dropped Crenshaw for a loss on the conversion run.
“I didn’t feel like I did as good a job with the offense tonight as I should have,” Perry said. “There were some calls that I made that I don’t think gave us the best opportunity to move the ball and I’ve got to live with that.”
The Indians would get one more shot, but Crenshaw couldn’t set his feet to throw back to the quarterback on fourth-and-goal from the 6.
“It’s hard to move it down there,” Perry said. “They started loading the box and it was a wet night most the night. We had trouble throwing it and we just wanted to break a little bit of our tendencies. We thought maybe we could catch them with something we haven’t shown them all year.”