TROY — The sequence hit Jackson Tate with the steadiness of a drumroll.
First, there was the ball. Then, there was a teammate knocking him to the ground. Then, there was the rest of Edgewood’s team.
Finally, there was a primal scream, two raised arms and another championship celebration.
“At that point, you can’t do anything but rip your helmet off and run to the crowd,” Tate said.
Edgewood survived a last-play throw into the end zone to win an unprecedented sixth straight AISA championship Friday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The Wildcats, with their 40-34 victory over Marengo Academy for the Class AA title, also pushed their state-record winning streak to 71 games.
“Me and Tate, I knew one of us was going to knock the ball down,” junior Maurice Young said. “They just threw it up for grabs and Tate came out with it.”
Edgewood (13-0) was so close to despair.
Marengo Academy, facing a six-point deficit, took over at its own 1-yard line with 7:51 to play and drove to the Edgewood 13.
With 3 seconds remaining, the Longhorns (10-2) were at the Edgewood 19 when Hayden Huckabee rolled to his right.
With the Wildcats giving chase, including senior Austin Barnett, Huckabee lofted a pass to the end zone and junior Landon Houlditch.
Tate and Young — fortunately for Edgewood — were in between.
“I was pretty close to him, and a lot of things went through my mind,” Barnett said. “I knew he would come down with it or we win.
“What a great play and a great experience. This was the greatest game I’ve ever played in.”
It was the closest game in more than two years for Edgewood and similar to its previous AISA championship loss.
If not for a 39-yard field goal with 3 seconds to play — toward the same end zone that Marengo drove Friday — in Monroe Academy’s 30-29 win over Edgewood in 2009, the Wildcats would have eight straight championships.
“They found a way to be the last one standing,” Edgewood coach Bobby Carr said. “I talked to them before the game about overcoming adversity, that we’d have to do it in this game, but we hadn’t had any all year.
“I didn’t expect that.”
Tate played defense Friday for the first time all season, Carr said. Senior Michael Taylor, Edgewood’s usual safety, was out with an ankle injury and Tate moved in.
Tate finished with three tackles and an important pass breakup.
“Jackson Tate is as good an athlete as you’ll see on any level,” Carr said. “The good thing for Edgewood is he’s only a junior.
“We did what champions do: We made the play to be the last one standing.”
Edgewood led 40-27 after Nathan Rourke’s third touchdown pass, a 57-yarder to Daniel Green in the final minute of the third quarter.
Marengo answered with a 4-yard Huckabee TD run and forced Edgewood into its first punt — and just its third all year.
The Wildcats downed Jon Johnson’s kick, which benefited from a healthy roll, at the 1-yard line with 7:51 to play.
“They got the ball on the 1-yard line and kept pounding it,” Tate said. “The defense definitely came up and made the right play at the right time.
“I was lucky to be there to do what we needed when we needed it.”