The touchdown run that broke Leon’s heart crossed the goal line with 21 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
An illegal motion penalty brought it back.
Blessed with a second chance at victory, Lions senior Destin Parmer made sure not to let it slip away.
One play after Tampa Strawberry Crest quarterback Austin Carswell’s go-ahead 6-yard touchdown was nullified, Parmer, a 5-9, 185-pound safety-turned-linebacker found himself standing, 1-on-1, between the elusive quarterback and the end zone.
In what he later described as “pure luck,” Parmer reached out, got his arms around Carswell and brought him to the ground – in-bounds – at the 9-yard line. The clock hit zero on Leon’s 32-26, homecoming win as Strawberry Crest rushed to the line of scrimmage hoping for one more play.
“He breaks through and it’s just me and him,” Parmer said. “So I know that I’ve got to be there for my team. I’m a senior. I’ve been a captain of this team. I know it’s going to be on me to make this tackle and luckily I made it.”
“Destin is the heart and soul of our team,” Leon coach Tim Cokely said. “He’s the player of the game … Leaders step up and make a play when you need them to make a play.”
Moments before, it appeared improbable that Leon (2-1) would have much need for such a play. On the legs of quarterbacks D’Anfernee McGriff (142 rushing yards, 1 TD) and Darius Bradwell (116 rushing yards, 1 TD), the Lions had built a 32-14 advantage midway through the fourth quarter and looked ready to cruise into next week’s intra-city matchup with Godby.
But on a night when both teams leaned heavily on their running games, the Chargers finally broke through with their passing attack.
Carswell, who entered the game in the second quarter after starter Tristan Hyde suffered a left leg injury, completed two touchdown drives with passes to receiver Jacob Hyde, the last of which cut Leon’s lead to six with 1:58 to play.
After the Chargers fielded Leon’s final punt with 50 seconds on the clock, Carswell needed just two plays to march the offense to the Lions’ 6-yard line, but couldn’t find the game-winning score – at least not one that counted.
“I told my kids we can’t leave it up to the refs for one play,” Strawberry Crest coach John Kelly said. “When it comes down to it, we didn’t get it done. We had 48 minutes to get it done and we didn’t do it.”
Leon, meanwhile, got it done exclusively on the ground. Although neither completed a single pass – in fact, only a single pass was even attempted – the quarterback duo of Bradwell and McGriff again gave Cokely little reason to move away from the two-QB approach.
Each proved to be an effective running option against Strawberry Crest’s defensive front and, along with junior Travis Amey (116 yards, two TDs), helped the Lions rack up nearly 400 rushing yards.
“They both can play, they’re both good, they both do what we ask them to do,” Cokely said.