Carver did everything it could to pick up a win Friday night.
And it turned out to be enough.
It took three overtimes, but top-seeded Carver finally held off B.E.S.T. Academy 38-32 to escape with a victory in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs at Memorial Stadium.
The game-winning play came on the arm of sophomore quarterback Jawon Pass. Facing a third-and-5 from the 10-yard in the final overtime, he looked to the same player he had connected with on a 63-yard touchdown pass way back in the third period: junior receiver Dreilon Freeman. In the shotgun formation, Pass looked around before firing to his right, hitting Freeman at the 2-yard line. The junior pass-catcher made a pair of cuts before crossing the goal line to finally secure the victory for the Tigers.
Carver (10-1) wouldn't have been able to walk off with a win in the bottom half of
the third extra period if its defense hadn't come up big in the preceding frame. Inside the 5-yard yard, B.E.S.T. coughed up the football, and junior defensive back Talik Quarterman was in the right place at the right time. Not surprisingly, he was exuberant in his celebration when he came up with the football, running to midfield with the ball held aloft.
Luckily for the Tigers, he was able to avoid the one thing that had plagued them all night: Penalties. Carver had a mind-numbing 15 penalties for 150 yards, doubling up B.E.S.T., which had seven for 65.
The Eagles (6-5) could have prevented it from ever reaching a third overtime, though. In the preceding extra period, quarterback Christopher Seaborn hit a diving Deshawn Waller in the end zone on a 24-yard scoring strike to knot the game at 32-all. All B.E.S.T. needed to do was knock in an extra-point and it would walk away with one of the biggest upsets in recent memory.
It was not to be, as kicker Dejaiah Jackson's kick sailed wide-right, keeping Carver's chances at victory alive.
Of course, the Eagles had to work hard to even put themselves in that position in the first place. The visitors from Atlanta trailed 20-6 with less than eight minutes to play, but were able to embark on two scoring drives to force overtime. The first of the two scoring drives saw the Eagles go 83 yards in just over four minutes, capped by a one-yard rumble up the middle by Waller. Even after Jackson's extra-point, the Tigers still led 20-14.
But Carver's only turnover of the contest came at an inopportune time. Senior fullback Noah Hickey had the ball knocked out of his hands at the Eagles' 20-yard line and into the waiting arms of safety Junior Lloyd, who returned the ball all the way to Carver's 19-yard line.
Three plays later, Seaborn tied the game at 20-apiece on a 10-yard touchdown run with just 47.8 seconds remaining. The scoring play appeared to be a "fumblerooski" as every Carver defender dove into a pile at the line of scrimmage, only to turn around and see Seaborn celebrating in the end zone.
The Eagles' joy was short-lived, as the Tigers' came up with an all-important block of the extra-point to keep the score tied at 20.
Had penalties not figured so prominently, the contest never would have developed into such a tight affair. One-fifth (three) of the Tigers' 15 flags were devastating, as all took touchdowns off the board.
The most memorable of the three came at the end of the first half. Pass found his way into the end zone from the 10-yard line on a broken play. Initially, it was flagged for a holding.
But the absurdity was only beginning. The Tigers drew three more flags -- all unsportsmanlike conduct violations -- which pushed them beyond midfield, giving the hosts a first-and-goal from its own 42-yard line.
In the end, the Tigers were able to overcome those penalties -- and more importantly, the Eagles -- to seal their eighth consecutive season of double-digit wins.
Carver will now host Jefferson County, a 32-29 winner over Southeast Bulloch on Friday night, in the second round.
Friday at Memorial Stadium
B.E.S.T. 0 7 0 13 6 6 0--32
Carver 8 6 6 0 6 6 6--38
CHS- Noah Hickey 2 run (Nate Barley two-point conversion run), 7:46
CHS- Nate Barley 17 pass from Jawon Pass (Two-point conversion no good), 7:36
B.E.S.T.- Deonta Hill 1 run (Dejaiah Jackson kick), 3:04
CHS- Dreilon Freeman 63 pass from Pass (Two-point conversion no good), 10:15
B.E.S.T- Deshawn Waller 1 run (Jackson kick), 3:14
B.E.S.T- Christopher Seaborn 10 run (Jackson kick no good), 47.8
B.E.S.T.- Waller 8 pass from Seaborn (Jackson kick no good)
CHS- Pass 3 run (two-point conversion no good)
CHS- Pass 1 run (two-point conversion no good)
B.E.S.T.- Waller 24 pass from Seaborn (Jackson kick no good)
CHS- Freeman 10 pass from Pass