Nothing is easy on a Friday night in GHSA Region 4-AA.
In what has been wild region play already this year, Central (2-6, 2-3 Region 4-AA) scored on Desmond Phillips’s 2-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds to play to beat Southwest 12-7 and keep its slim playoff hopes alive.
It was Central’s fourth straight region game decided by six points or fewer. Southwest has lost three region games by eight points or fewer.
“We finally caught some breaks (Friday),” Central head coach Anthony Hines said. “We haven’t had things go our way even though we’ve played well. Our guys deserved a win with the way they’ve been playing.”
Central looked as if it would drop another heartbreaker in region play with the way things were going late in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 7-6, Central caught a break when Southwest punted the ball into the line of scrimmage giving the Chargers the ball at their own 45-yard line. They took advantage on third-and-5 when quarterback Devon Thames connected with senior Emanuel Carter on a 47-yard completion down to the 3-yard line.
“I had to make a big play for our team,” Carter said. “I want the ball in my hands in those moments.”
Things still didn’t come easy for Central, as the Chargers were stuffed on a quarterback sneak on first down and fumbled the ball back to the 10-yard line on second. With no timeouts, Central had to spike the ball on third down. The Chargers went back to Carter on fourth down, who drew a pass interference call in double coverage on a fade route.
Carter said Southwest defenders were yanking on his jersey as he went up for the catch.
“I’m the coach for Southwest; what do you think I’m going to see,” Wright said. “I thought I had a good look, We’ll see. We’ll look at it on film.”
One Southwest player lost his cool after the call, and the Patriots were hit with two personal foul penalties. Instead of having the ball at the 5-yard line with no timeouts, Central had it at the 2. Phillips plowed through the line on the next play for the game-winning score.
“We wouldn’t have called the run if it weren’t for the penalties,” Hines said. “We were going to pass it.”
Said Wright, “I don’t know if it mattered. We probably would have got a penalty anyway on the next play. We had a lot of mistakes with (our 13) penalties that negated good plays.”
Central will become Southwest and Northeast fans now, as the Chargers need their rivals to both beat Greene County to stay in the playoff mix. They also need to beat Monticello and region leader Putnam County to get in the playoffs.
Southwest (3-5, 1-4) still has playoff hopes, as well. The Patriots would get in with wins over Greene County and Howard and two Central losses. They could also force a three-way tie with two wins, two Greene County losses and by Central splitting its final two games.
“I don’t know if we still have a playoff chance or not,” Wright said. “It would be nice to go for our seniors.”