With two minutes to go in a 7-7 game against Suwannee, Leon kicker Jack Driggers was told to start warming up.
He stretched a little and got a few kicks off.
As Leon’s final drive stalled at the 25-yard line, the junior was called up for a 42-yard with goal with one second left.
Driggers drilled it.
“I knew when I walked on the field they were going to call a time out, so I wasn’t worried about it,” Driggers said. “When we went out for the real deal it was just like practice.”
Leon’s 100th football season was suddenly off to a roaring start with win number 595 in the school’s illustrious history secured at Gene Cox Stadium on Friday night with the 10-7 win.
“Perfect snap, perfect hold and the team kept me in the game the whole time,” Driggers said. “I just finished it. I’m really proud of my guys and how they fought the whole time. It’s a nice feeling to help them get that win.”
Suwannee scored first in the first quarter, when a 31-yard run by Aaron McAllister turned into a fumble caused by Leon linebacker Joey Grant. However, Bulldogs receiver Joe Combs recovered the loose ball at the 15 with no one around him and ran in for the score.
Leon put together a 13-yard, 71-yard drive on the next series – all runs – and tied up the game on Lions quarterback Ty Glasco’s 1-yard keeper.
Finally, after two scoreless periods and a bit of fortunate breaks, Leon wound up with the chance to win against the odds.
“It started left, but I was confident in myself the whole time,” Driggers said. “First game starting off the 100th year, felt like a good way to end it.”
The Bulldogs didn’t have much trouble moving the ball between the 20s. Quarterback Steven Anderson rushed for 46 yards, McAllister had 50, and tailback Dee Coleman gained 69.
But when it came time to punch the ball in the end zone, Suwannee could not. Mostly, it hurt itself with dumb penalties at all the wrong times.
And it allowed a field goal to beat them, something Suwannee missed twice on from 34 and 35 yards in the game, including the fourth quarter.
“We had the ball probably seven or eight times where we started inside the 50, so we missed a bunch of opportunities,” Bulldogs coach Jamie Rodgers said. “The best team didn’t win tonight, but that’s alright because sometimes they don’t. We squandered so many chances, and that’s what happens.”
Leon running back Sam Thomas didn’t play in the second half after appearing on crutches in what he hopes is just a bruised right knee. Thomas had 32 yards on 10 carries when he exited.
Special teams stuff
Setting up Leon’s final series in good field position didn’t happen by chance.
On a deep punt, McAllister was set to return with open space and he’d burned the Lions’ special teams several times already.
Junior defensive back Quyterrious Shaw was the first down the field and the only one around to wrap up McAllister.
He did solo style.
“My special teams coach told me to fly down and get to the ball,” Shaw said. “It’s a game-winning decision. I tried my hardest and got to the ball. I’m lucky we got the tackle. I watched film on him and saw how he got out of punts well, so I had to fly down there.”
Play of the night
A game-winning kick isn’t the play of the night? Well, not without the penultimate play.
Following Shaw’s tackle, Suwannee was in a third-and-20 at its 44. A quick pass to the sideline resulted in defensive back Damien Crumitie making a tackle and forcing a fumble.
Only the only person to see it was defensive back Henry Segura, who had a whale of a night with eight tackles already.
He recovered the fumble and the rest is history.
“It was just a team effort, because without Damien making the tackle I don’t get the fumble,” Segura said. “We had gotten frustrated with how we were playing earlier in the game, so we just took it out at the end.”
“I asked my backup quarterback to become the long snapper a few weeks ago. His name is Emory Wilhite. He did it with the right spirit and said, ‘I’ll be the best one we ever had at Leon.’ He helped win the game for us tonight. I hope that’s the spirit we have as we move forward.” – Leon coach Tim Cokely
LEON 10, SUWANNEE 7
Suwannee 7 0 0 0 — 7
Leon 7 0 0 3 — 10
S — Joe Combs 21 fumble advance (Caleb Mumford kick)
L — Ty Glasco 1 run (Jack Driggers kick)
L — Driggers 42 field goal
Passing— Suwannee, Steven Anderson 8-15-52-0-0; Leon, John Carey 1-3-3-0-0, Ty Glasco 0-2-0-0-0
Rushing— Suwannee, Dee Coleman 11-69, McAllister 5-50, Anderson 7-46, Joe Combs 3-7, Jerry Holliman 3-(-4); Leon, Sam Thomas 10-32, James Peterson 12-25, Glasco 8-23, Darquez Brutton 8-26, Carey 3-4, Damien Crumitie 1-(-1)
Receiving— Suwannee, McAllister 1-(-4), Combs 4-37, Tadavious Freeland 1-6, Coleman 1-8, Reginald Walker 1-5; Leon, Jacob Owens 1-3
Suwannee (0-1), Leon (1-0)
Suwannee at Fort White, Sept. 4; Leon vs. Rickards at Cox Stadium, Sept. 4