It was the situation that IR senior Andrew White had been waiting for, as field goal kickers often do.
Less than a minute to go. The Indians down 22-21 and within striking distance. His chance to seal the game for his squad.
While White would eventually drill a 26-yarder with 00:21 ticks to go, to give the Indians a 24-22 lead and the eventual division win over Laurel, the storybook ending had had all the makings of a tragedy when he had attempted a 46-yard shot on fourth down just four plays prior.
“On the first one, it seemed like the perfect storm,” White explained of his first attempt. “Everything went wrong — the snap was off, I wasn’t set, I slipped in the mud — but on the second one, it was a second chance.”
“He kicks 40, 45 yards in practice all the time, so as a coach I have trust in him to make it. I wouldn’t have put him out there if not,” added IR head coach Phil Townsend.
The Indians would get that second chance when the 46-yard attempt fell short of the end zone, and instead of letting Laurel return what should have been a live ball, a referee whistled the play dead.
After the inadvertent whistle, however, Townsend and his squad would again face fourth-and-long with time running out — this time opting to go for it.
That’s when freshman quarterback Jalen Snead dropped back and launched a 28-yard bomb to junior wide out Ja’Vonta Briddell, who hauled in a catch in stride while battling Laurel defenders on the sideline and wrestled it all the way down to the 1-yard line.
“We called the ol’ out-and-up,” Townsend said. “Snead threw the ball right away, like he was supposed to, and Briddell made a great catch.”
The play set up White’s second attempt — that time from 26 yards out — which he sent through the uprights, to give the Indians a 24-22 lead with 00:21 left on the clock.
“Right when I kicked it, I got hit by three or four guys, but when I opened up my eyes, I saw it flying through,” said White. “I was just amped. I was so glad I didn’t miss.”
After taking the lead, the Indians would still have to contest with the Laurel offense and All-Conference quarterback Perez Nichols to solidify the win.
“Nichols is always a threat,” said Townsend. “He’s probably, in my opinion, one of the top five most athletic kids in the state.”
Nichols showed off that big-play ability after a scrambling for a first down when the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage against IR’s prevent defense had broken down. But with time about to expire and Laurel on their last play, it was IR freshman cornerback Kevin Custis who pulled the senior down from behind to officially seal the victory.
“I congratulated all those guys,” Townsend said of his underclassmen, including Custis, Snead and sophomore Zach Schultz, who had to step in on both offense and defense during the game, after a few minor injuries. “By the end of the night, we had three or four sophomores on the field, five or six freshmen. It’s great that they’re stepping up, but it’s also tough, because they’re not used to the spotlight and they’re not used to games like this.
“Laurel’s a well-coached team. They’ve got a lot of talent. I give Coach [Eston] Ennis a lot of credit. My hat goes off to him and his coaching staff. I think they did a great job tonight.”
While the underclassmen certainly got their share of the spotlight in the matchup, it was the IR upperclassmen getting the scoring started early on, when senior running back Gerald Foreman ripped off a 34-yard touchdown run up the middle, to make it 7-0 in the second quarter.
Laurel would answer on a Nichols’ bootleg, but it was Foreman again on the next drive, that time going for 43 yards and to the house, to put the Indians up 14-6.
After a 35-yard strike from Nichols to junior Brandon Faulk and the ensuing 2-point conversion tied the game just before the break, Custis answered with an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, to put the Indians back up at the start of the third quarter.
That would be IR’s last score before the White field goal, with Nichols striking for Laurel yet again, that time on a 10-yard scamper to the pylon, with just over 8:00 to go in the third quarter.
Foreman finished the night with nine carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns, with senior running back George Martin rushing for more than 100 yards for the second time this season, going for 121 yards on 27 carries.
Senior linebacker Zion Howard led the team with 12 tackles, with Custis and senior safety Jared Arlett each racking up seven solo tackles of their own.
At 2-0 in the South, the Indians were gearing up to take on 5-0 Milford on Friday, Oct. 14.
“Our goal right now is to win the South. We go one week at a time — we’ve got Milford up next. We’re just hoping to keep everybody healthy,” said Townsend.
That game will be played at 7:30 p.m. in Milford, for the Buccaneers’ Homecoming. For live scoring updates, follow @CPointSports on Twitter.
Passing: J. Snead (2-5, 34 yards)
Rushing: G. Martin (27 carries, 121 yards); G. Foreman (9 carries, 91 yards, 2 TD); K. Custis (5 carries, 2 yards)
Receiving: J. Briddell (2 receptions, 34 yards); J. Flloyd (1 reception, 10 yards)
Tackles: Z. Howard (12); J. Arlett (7); K. Custis (7); J. Briddell (6); G. Gottschalk (6); G. Martin (6); Z. Schultz (6); S. Miltner (5); J. Morris (5); Ram. Turner (5); J. Ciriello (2); Ja. Anderson (1); M. Allender (1); I. Boyce (1); J. Flloyd (1); G. McCormick (1); T. Moore (1): R. Walter (1); A. White (1)
Kicking: A. White (3-3 XP, 1-1 FG)
Return TD: K. Custis (1 TD, 85 yards)