Wild win by S&S clinches playoffs
SADLER — In a game where there were plenty of points scored, it was a pair of defensive stands, the last coming in the closing seconds, that would be the difference in sending the S&S Rams to the playoffs for the first time in three years.
Leonard had two cracks at the go-ahead touchdown but S&S did not allow the Tigers to reach the end zone, including at the two-yard line as time expired to preserve a 41-40 victory in a key District 8-3A (II) match-up.
S&S (5-3, 3-2) not only locked up a playoff spot but the third seed for the playoffs as the Rams continued to put the previous two seasons behind them when they went a combined 1-19. S&S wouldn’t have been eliminated with a loss but it would have either needed to beat first-place Gunter on the road on Friday to close out the regular season or get the right result from Leonard (4-3, 2-3) hosting Whitewright in a game where the winner will advance to the playoffs and the loser will be eliminated.
Instead the Rams kept it in their control by rallying from a pair of double-digit comebacks to stun Leonard.
Jake Reynolds finished with 203 yards and five touchdowns on 29 carries and threw for 107 yards, Colby McSpedden added 16 carries for 86 yards and Keane Ortega totaled 75 yards on four receptions for S&S.
D.J. Brown had 35 carries for 139 yards and five touchdowns and was 8-of-15 passing for 88 yards and a score to lead Leonard. Cameron Armstrong caught four passes for 49 yards and a TD.
Leonard opened the game with the ball and Brown capped the drive when he scored from the 10-yard line.
The Tigers added to their lead when Brown connected with Armstrong on a 22-yard touchdown pass.
Brown scored again, this time from the three-yard line and Leonard had raced out to a 19-0 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
S&S started to chip away at the deficit. Kevin Sanchez kicked a pair of field goals from 27 and 30 yards around a Reynolds eight-yard touchdown run to pull the Rams to within a score at 19-13 going into the locker room.
The momentum carried over into the second half as S&S came right out and marched 46 yards for a score on a two-yard run from Reynolds and the Rams were up 20-19 less than three minutes into the quarter.
Leonard’s first possession of the third resulted in Brown’s two-yard TD run and a tw0-point conversion by Tyson Burgess gave the Tigers a 27-20 lead in the middle of the quarter.
The teams continued to trade touchdowns as Reynolds had another touchdown run, this time a 25-yarder, and the game was knotted at 27 with 3:16 left in the third.
Leonard went back in front on a three-yard TD run by Brown in the final minute of the quarter and the Tigers were in position to widen the gap when Bryce Baker recovered the loose ball on the kickoff.
Brown scored again on another short run — three yards — as Leonard cashed in on the turnover for a 40-27 advantage just seconds into the fourth quarter.
Reynolds reached the end zone on a 14-yard run to get the deficit down to six points with 9:21 left.
Leonard couldn’t put anything together and S&S took over with a chance to take the lead. The Rams did so when Reynolds’ 28-yard run tied the score and Sanchez’s extra point put S&S in front by a point with just over seven minutes left.
The Tigers’ first try to reclaim the lead ended at the S&S eight-yard line but a fumble recovery gave Leonard one final chance. The Rams were up to the task one final time and the Tigers ran out of time just yards from the end zone, sending S&S to the postseason and Leonard into a must-win situation.
District 8-3A (II)