|In a game of 10 possessions, where each quarterback threw an interception and both teams scored three touchdowns, the game was decided by a lone two-point conversion.||Rebel quarterback Reid Maag dove in for the extra points on the junior Rebs second touchdown, and the team held on for a 20-18 win over the Blazers at Highland.|
"We talk to kids all the time that two-point conversions are going to win or lose the ballgame. Tonight, it won a ball game," said Junior Rebel Head Coach Adam Carter.
The usually dynamic Rebel offense struggled on the first possession, picking up one first down but finding yards hard to gain.
On second-and-12, Maag's pass was intercepted by Clay Hubbard. Valley View turned that turnover into the game's first points -- driving 67 yards on seven plays, ending with Jagger Cornelious' five-yard touchdown run. Cornelious was not able to add the two-point conversion.
Taking what the defense would give them, the Reb offense slowly ground out yards, using Maag, Trace French and Brody Ninemire. They picked up four first downs on the ground, but it was a pass from Maag to Jake Berton that capped off the drive. Berton caught the 17-yard score at the five-yard line, and needed all of his six foot frame to get into the end zone. Maag's conversion attempt was not successful, but the score was tied at 6-all with three minutes left in the half.
Blazer quarterback Noah Tyler hit Cornelious for 27 yards to pick up a first down in Rebel territory, but Ninemire picked off his next pass to stop the drive.
On the the Rebs' first play, Maag found an open Berton for 15 yards, then Maag broke through for a 58-yard scamper, and Ninemire finished the drive with a one-yard dive for the touchdown. Maag added the conversion for a 14-6 halftime lead.
Valley View quickly scored at the start the second half, by using a four play 50-yard drive that concluded with Cornelious taking a 16-yard pitch in for the TD. Tyler's conversion pass to Aaron Mobley was incomplete.
"That was an awesome test. That's a great football team. Those boys are hard-nosed football players," said Carter of the junior Blazers. "Their offense is a tough offense to defend. I couldn't be more proud of my kids for bowing up and finishing the ball game."
Attempting and failing on a trick play to start the next possession, Highland returned to a grind it out style for its final score. A backwards pass from Ninemire to Maag lost seven yards, but an eight-yard run by French and an 11-yard Maag toss to Berton got the team back on track. Maag and Ninemire exchanged rushes, until Maag took the sneak in for the one-yard touchdown. Maag's jump pass to Berton in the end zone fell incomplete, but the junior Rebs held a 20-12 lead with one quarter to go.
The Blazer's wasted little time in scoring again. Starting from their own 18-yard line, Cornelious picked up 10 yards. Then Tyler hit Zac Despain on a quick sideline pass, which Despain used to out race Highland for a 72-yard touchdown. On the conversion attempt, it looked as though Tyler was going to pull the ball back from running back Taylor Brown on the option, but Brown kept it and was immediately tackled short of the goal line.
With 7:43 left in the game, the Rebel coaching staff decided it was best to use all of the clock, and not give the ball back to Valley View. They did just that by mounting a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Maag taking a knee to run out the clock.
"There was 7:43 left and (Coach) Sinclair said you better use all of it and he was right. That was my plan to chew the clock," explained Carter. "Our O-line took it on their shoulders and did what they had to do."
Highland (5-0, 3-0) was led by Maag with 121 yards on 12 carries, to go with five of six passing for 54 yards. Ninemire had 85 yards on 15 totes, and French added 53 yards on 12 rushes.