How do you correct a season’s worth of inefficiency, a game’s worth of bad breaks, a quarter’s worth of missed opportunities?
With a miracle.
Down to a fourth-down play to save their season, Leon receiver Javier Ferrer and quarterback Ty Glasco teamed up on a game-winning play with time winding down.
Ferrer snagged Glasco’s 21-yard corner of the end zone throw over the outstretched arms of Chiles defender Shane Sanders, tapping his feet down along the sideline with 28 seconds remaining Thursday night at Gene Cox Stadium.
With the extra point, Leon defeated Chiles, 22-21, halting the Timberwolves’ attempt at a first district title and forcing a three-way playoff with Lincoln on Monday for two playoff spots.
And the Lions (4-5, 1-1 District 2-7A) are still alive for a district title after fighting just not to be eliminated from the playoffs.
“He put it on the money and the corner gave me a little bit of separation,” Ferrer said. “God blessed me to make a play. It’s really just a great feeling. I still can’t believe I made that catch.”
The down before
Leon was never fated to win and it especially had to feel that way after fumbling away a drive with only 3:37 left in the game.
Chiles (6-3, 1-1) recovered, only to unexpectedly fumble right back, just as Timberwolves’ running back Shane Sanders neared the sideline.
“He hadn’t fumbled the ball all year, really,” Chiles coach Garrett Jahn said. “He coughed it up there on a drive where if we get a couple first downs we’re taking a knee. He was in good position on the fourth-and-15, his hand goes up and the ball just goes right next to it. He’s a little down right now. I know he’ll take the loss real heavy for those couple plays. But ultimately there were numerous times where we could put it away. Give credit to Leon for not letting us do it. They fought to the end.”
On the ensuing Leon possession, Glasco ran for 26 yards, completed passes of 7 and 5 yards to Ferrer and ran for a six-yard gain.
That put the Lions at Chiles’ 9-yard line with under a minute left.
A spike stopped the clock, making it third down, but a bad snap went under Glasco, who ran and dove on the loose ball.
Fourth-and-16 at the 21, Glasco escaped the pocket and found Ferrer on the left side of the field, sitting in yet another soft spot in the Timberwolves’ zone defense as he’d done all night long.
“We’ve played in five of these games and in four we’ve come out on the wrong end, so it’s not luck,” Leon coach Tim Cokely said. “We just made a play at the end.”
Leon was resilient, even as Chiles’ repeatedly tried to grab momentum.
Sanders first carry of the game for the Timberwolves was a 16-yard touchdown run immediately following a 51-yard catch by John Mitchell from quarterback Landon Simpkins on the game’s opening possession.
Glasco took his team to the red zone, but on this occasion a fourth-down pass was snuffed out by Mitchell’s interception.
Chiles missed a 29-yard field goal, and Leon made them pay for missed points as Jack Driggers drilled field goals of 20 and 40 yards to send the game to halftime at just a 7-6 ballgame.
“It was do-or-die, win or go home,” said Glasco, who was 17 of 24 passing for 195 yards on the night. “So we fought.”
Leon fumbled away its opening possession of the second half, and Simpkins threaded a pass between two defenders that Mitchell turned into an 80-yard touchdown and a 14-6 lead.
“Honestly, I kind of made the wrong read because the safety played over John, so I should have gone to the left,” Simpkins said. “John made a great catch and just took it to the house.”
Not going away, Leon ran some trickery and Sam Thomas’ halfback pass went for 65 yards to J’Air Jones, setting up Glasco’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.
The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Timberwolves ahead.
As Leon moved the ball 20-to-20 all night long, a fumble on a lateral pass to running back James Peterson resulted in Chiles linebacker Jacob Greenfield scooping and scoring a 33-yard touchdown.
The Timberwolves had a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
Driggers’ 40-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-15 with 9:01 left as Leon’s drive again stalled in the red zone.
But finally with the pressure on, the Lions overcame every oddity within the game, a microcosm of the season, to win when it mattered most.
“(Javier) is very underrated, and he’s a great player,” Glasco said. “Over the season, he was very clutch for us.”
Leon offense heating up
Ferrer finished with seven catches for 95 yards and the game-winning score, complementing Jones, who finished with five catches for 91 yards. He continually lined up with no Chiles defender in man coverage, then sat down in the soft spot of the zone, catching everything that came his way.
“We did throw the ball more,” Ferrer said. “We really trust the quarterback more with the offense. We really let him do him. He was in control tonight.”
The efficiency in the passing game was at stark contrast to play earlier in the season, and that’s at credit to Glasco, who transferred from NFC just prior to the season starting. He dueled with sophomore John Carey early on to be the primary quarterback and not just part of a rotation.
And those two were only in the game because starter Eric Anderson was hurt before the season began.
Glasco’s read option runs have became a more viable threat to the offense, while his passing has steadily improved. The only thing Leon hadn’t done lately was produce in the red zone, and three second-half fumbles didn’t aid the comeback cause.
Yet they found a way.
“I felt like our team had to make a play,” Glasco said. “Our team put us in the right position, we just had to execute. Our coach has come to trust me more, but I had to earn his trust.”
Leon’s win is the program’s 598th, being accomplished currently in the school’s 100th football season.
It also ended Chiles’ thoughts of winning a district title outright for the first time in school history, which also would have marked the first playoff appearance for the Timberwolves.
Now both will endure a three-way tiebreaker Monday at Cox alongside Lincoln.
“What happened tonight happened,” Simpkins said. “We just have to put it out of our minds and start fresh Monday.”
Leon and Lincoln will play one quarter with the winner to face Chiles. The winner of that would be district champion, so the Timberwolves hopes are still alive.
They just have only two days to cope with the sadness of defeat and prepare for their next battle.
“Very disappointing right now, but we have another crack at it Monday,” Jahn said. “We’ll see if on Monday we can finish off opportunities when we have them.”
The same goes for Lincoln. And the same goes for Leon. Everything is up for grabs.
Just like a last-second pass.
“It’s win or go home,” Glasco said, “and we’ve got to win.”
LEON 22, CHILES 21
Leon 0 6 6 10 — 22
Chiles 7 0 14 0 — 21
C — Shane Sanders 16 run (Jake Robert Meyer)
L — Jack Driggers 20 field goal
L — Driggers 40 field goal
C — John Mitchell 80 yard pass from Landon Simpkins (Meyer kick)
L — Sam Thomas 5 pass from Ty Glasco (conversion failed)
C — Jacob Greenfield 33 fumble return (Meyer kick)
L — Driggers 40 field goal
L — Javier Ferrer 21 pass from Glasco (Driggers kick)
Passing— Leon: Ty Glasco 17-24-195-2-1; Chiles: Landon Simpkins 10-14-221-1-0
Rushing— Leon: Sam Thomas 10-75, James Peterson 13-42, Michael Zhu 1-9, Glasco 17-23; Chiles: Shane Sanders 18-80, Edward Gibson 3-8, Simpkins 5-1
Receiving— Leon: J’Air Jones 5-91, Javier Ferrer 7-95, Peterson 3-25, Thomas 2-12, Zhu 1-17, Dorrell James 1-20; Chiles: John Mitchell 4-156, Kris Reed 1-11, Sanders 4-58, Gibson 1-(-1)
Leon (4-5, 1-1 District 2-7A), Chiles (6-3, 1-1)
Fort Walton Beach at Leon, Nov. 6; Chiles vs. Rickards, Nov. 5