Moments after producing an unforgettable memory, the seniors on Jay High’s football team gathered to preserve it.
They joined with head coach Kent Smith, as the glow of a 33-30 comeback win Friday night against Tallahassee Maclay still enveloped their faces, then posed for photos under the scoreboard at Merle North Stadium.
What a yearbook portrait.
The Royals (6-4) trailed 21-0 in the first half, then 24-7 midway through the third quarter, but rallied for an emotion-stirring victory and their first winning season since 2008.
“This will stay with us the rest of our lives,” senior quarterback Tate Upton said.
He was among the main reasons. Upton threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to fellow senior Ashton Dennington with 33 seconds remaining for the winning score.
Dennington then completed a two-point conversion pass to another senior, Brandon Boutwell for the final margin.
“We’ll always remember it. Just unbelievable,” said Boutwell, whose 3-yard touchdown run with 3:50 remaining had put Jay up 25-24.
But Maclay answered on quarterback Jacob Wright’s 53-yard touchdown run on a scramble from a third-and-9 situation with 1:53 left.
Jay got a 42-yard kickoff return from sophomore Braden Cross, who rushed for 188 yards on 32 carries in the game and had more than 250 all-purpose yards. The Royals had two timeouts remaining.
“It’s not a lot of time, but we went into the spread (formation), and it’s something we work on every day, every week,” said Smith, who grew up in Jay and played for the Royals when winning seasons were common. “The kids showed so much character.”
Maclay, meanwhile, displayed a different side. The Marauders (3-7) were first whistled for a late hit on Upton on the first play of this final series. Then, on a 3rd-and-10 from the Maclay 48, a pass interference call nullified an interception by Chase Schaum. Another 15 yards was tacked on for unsportsmanlike conduct by Maclay, one of a half-dozen person foul penalties called on the Marauders in the second half.
“We got the (pass) interference call on a play we have run four or five times and been very successful at it,” Smith said. “We got it down there where we could run it.”
After a running play gained a few yards, it set up the pass connection between the seniors.
Maclay had one final play with 2 seconds remaining from inside midfield, but the Hail Mary pass from Wright was batted down.
The celebration ensued with Jay students, the band and cheerleaders. SCORING SUMMARY At Jay JAY 33, TALLAHASSEE MACLAY 30 Maclay — 14 7 3 6 — 30 Jay — 0 7 7 19 — 33 SCORING FIRST QUARTER MACLAY — Chase Schaum 9 run (Mathew Weaver kick), 3:25 MACLAY — Justin Ghazvini 11 pass from Jacob Wright, (Weaver kick), 1:17 SECOND QUARTER MACLAY — Schaum 9 run (Weaver kick), 9:43 JAY — Mason Bridges 65 interception return (Dakota Smith kick) 0:19 THIRD QUARTER MACLAY — Weaver 27 FG, 6:43 JAY — Brandon Boutwell 7 run (kick failed), 1:59 FOURTH QUARTER JAY — Mishoe Victor 3 run (pass failed), 9:51 JAY — Boutwell 3 run (run failed), 3:50 MACLAY — Wright 53 run (kick failed), 1:57 JAY — Ashton Dennington 18 pass from Tate Upton (Boutwell pass from Dennington), 0:33
Blountstown 31, Northview 0
The Chiefs concluded their regular season with a shutout-loss on the road at Blountstown.
The Tigers, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A, put up 31 points on Northview.
“Defensively, we need to limit the big plays at crucial times,” coach Sid Wheatley said. “Against a team as great as Blountstown, you can’t afford to have a coverage breakdown in passing situations.”
The Chiefs gave up 14 points in the first half, including a deep touchdown pass on third and long. Blountstown scored at least one touchdown in every quarter.
LaDarius Thomas gained 52 yards on 11 carries in the loss.
“They slowed our passing game down tonight; LaDarius played big for us,” Wheatley said.
Northview faces Vernon in the first round of the state playoffs next week and could potentially meet Blountstown for a rematch in the state semifinals.