Some will call it a miracle. Others, a “heads-up play.”
No matter what Tate’s winning play is eventually called, the Aggies are headed to the playoffs after their 28-23 win Friday night at Pine Forest.
With less than a minute to play and the game tied at 21, Tate quarterback Jake Henry threw a pass that was deflected in traffic around midfield.
The ball floated several yards downfield and into the waiting hands of wide receiver Corey Young, who sprinted 45 yards and into the end zone for the winning score.
“To be honest, miracles do happen,” Tate head coach Jay Lindsey said. “You keep the faith and just say all game that someone is going to make a play. Bottom line is, our kids don’t quit, and that was a prime example.”
Not only was the original pass not intended for Young, but the play itself was broken after the snap according to Lindsey.
But Young finished his route down the field, coming up with what he called a “heads-up play” that gave the Aggies (8-2) the final playoff spot in District 1-6A.
“I don’t like to win games like that, but I’ll take that any day,” Henry said. “The defender made a good play and kind of tipped it up, then Corey was in the right place at the right time. He made a great play and there’s no catching him once he’s in gear.”
The Aggies put themselves in a position to win late with a good defensive performance that contained the Eagles’ explosive playmakers.
Pine Forest’s Jaden Gardner scored two touchdowns and Jacob Copeland the other, but the Aggies forced quarterback Xavier Saulsberry into five turnovers (four interceptions, one fumble).
“We knew, in order to win this game and make a run in the playoffs, we had to play defense,” Lindsey said. “Defenses catch up with offenses around this time of the year so our defensive coaching staff did a fantastic job this week in preparation and our kids executed.”
In addition to running the Aggie offense, Henry intercepted two of Saulsberry’s passes, flashing the versatility he became known for at wide receiver and defensive back last season.
Lindsay said there wasn’t an injury that forced Henry to play both ways. He merely wanted to give his best player a chance to make more plays.
“He’s the best player in the area,” Lindsey said. “He’s not going to leave the field. Bottom line.”
“Everyone can talk about their guys, but I’ve got the best player in the area. Jake Henry is a stinkin’ winner and competitor. That’s what happens.”
With Gulf Breeze’s stunning 31-28 upset of Navarre, the Aggies will head across the bay to take on the high-flying Dolphins (8-1) in their playoff opener.
It’s a challenge and opportunity Lindsay said he’s grateful to have.
“Coach (Bobby) Clayton has done a heckuva job over there and they have an awesome quarterback,” Lindsay said. “We’re just excited to play. That’s the bottom line. They played for a district championship, we just wanted to get in. We love going on the road and wearing those white jerseys, so it’ll be exciting.”