Pine Forest starting quarterback Xavier Saulsberry went out with a sprained ankle early in the Eagles’ matchup with Milton on Friday, leaving coach Jerry Pollard with a lot of time on the clock and no single signal caller left on which to lean.
So instead, he decided to lean on two.
“We lost our quarterback early in the first quarter, and we were scrambling around trying to get things going,” Pollard said. “I thought Cal West and Jacob Copeland did a good job picking up slack for us.”
West, a sophomore, and Copeland, a junior, shared the duties under center for the rest of the night. And though Pine Forest was shut out in the second half, allowing Milton to tie the score with less than two minutes left in regulation, Copeland led the way in overtime to seal a 23-20 victory with a 2-yard touchdown run.
“We’ve been working on it all year long, just for things like that, just in case our quarterback got hurt,” said Copeland, who finished with 112 all-purpose yards. “I had to come in here and step up.”
The offenses were slow in the early going, and Pine Forest scored the game’s first points in the second quarter on a 1-yard quarterback keeper from West. Less than 30 seconds later, the Eagles (4-1) were back in the end zone again after Allen Johnson recovered a fumble on a Milton kickoff return, and Ladarius Wiggins cashed in on a 7-yard run on the very next play. Pine Forest scored once more in the half on a 36-yard field goal from Mohamed Kader.
Milton, though, didn’t have as much luck moving the ball before the break.
The Panthers had less than 100 yards of offense in the first half, scoring their only points on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Aubrey Williams to Marquise Mcroy.
In the second half, though, it was Pine Forest’s turn to flail.
Try as they might to get on the board again, the Eagles just couldn’t seem to do it. Pine Forest strung together nice drives, but those ended with a missed field goal, a turnover on downs, and a blocked field goal. Milton, meanwhile, crept its way back in, scoring on a 21-yard field goal from William Murta, then again on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Cameron Shelton to tie the score with less than two minutes to play.
“We made some mistakes on offense,” Copeland said, “so that gave them chances, built their confidence up like they were going to have the game.”
But Copeland had a different idea.
In overtime, Milton (2-4) got the ball first and moved it just two yards, kicking a 25-yard field goal to take the lead. And this time, a field goal wouldn’t be enough.
On Pine Forest’s first play, Copeland ran eight yards. On the next, he finished it off, dropping the ball with a sense of relief as he crossed the goal line for the victory.
Pollard was proud of the way his quarterbacks pitched in to get the job done, and especially of Copeland’s better-late-than-never dash to the end zone.
“It means a win,” Pollard said about Copeland’s contribution. “He really did a good job. He hasn’t practiced any at quarterback, and he stepped up for us tonight.”