McGill-Toolen defensive back Bryceson Massey got in the way of the Central Red Devils’ keeping their state title hopes alive Friday.
With an extra point looming in a 27-26 game in overtime, Massey found a gap to run through and interrupted the kick’s trajectory. The ball never had a chance of flying over the crossbar, instead turning flips in the air before landing in the end zone.
Just like that, the Red Devils’ 2017 season was over.
The one-point overtime loss was a hard one for the Red Devils to comprehend once the final buzzer sounded and the teams had exchanged their final pleasantries. Central head coach Jamey DuBose did his best to make sense of the defeat, which was the third straight time McGill-Toolen had beaten the Red Devils in the semifinals.
“We thought we did what we needed to do to win,” DuBose said. “We knew they were going to be good defensively, and they were. Everything is important, from one play to one second. That was the difference in this football game.”
The blocked extra point took all the energy out of a raucous stadium that had just watched arguably Central’s best play of the night.
Facing a third-and-goal from the Yellow Jackets’ 14-yard line, the Red Devils looked destined for disaster when the shotgun snap caught quarterback Peter Parrish by surprise. Parrish recovered, scrambled his way out of trouble then heaved a pass toward Justyn Ross in the end zone. Ross went up and came down with the ball, securing it for a 14-yard touchdown.
“We were trying to check it, and the crowd noise was high,” DuBose said. “Our center didn’t hear the check— he thought it was a snap count. It worked out for us, because Peter made a great play. Our offensive linemen gave him just enough time, and Ross is Ross. He did an unbelievable job.”
The loss was doubly hard to swallow not only because of how the overtime session transpired, but also how regulation came to a close.
Central took possession in a 20-20 game with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter and methodically worked its way down the field. No play was bigger than a Parrish-to-Ross connection on a third-and-7 play, which Ross took for 20 yards into McGill-Toolen territory.
The Red Devils’ offense worked their way to the Yellow Jackets’ 14-yard line before the clock came to a stop on fourth down with 23 seconds remaining.
Central connected on a would-be go-ahead 31-yard field goal attempt, but the Yellow Jackets’ took a timeout just before the ball was snapped. The Red Devils’ second attempt missed the mark, setting up the team on the course for overtime.
Prior to the extra point in overtime, the Red Devils had missed that 31-yard attempt and an extra point after Parrish’s 4-yard touchdown run with 11:23 to go in the fourth quarter. DuBose said he floated the idea of going for two after the Parrish-to-Ross play, but the option was ultimately outvoted.
“I did ask the question, and everybody on the offensive staff was in agreement to stick with it,” DuBose said. “We felt like we could still continue to score and trust in our defense. We had some two-point plays we like, but at the moment I thought our kids had fought so hard and I wanted to go another stanza.”
Dubose was understandably beside himself after he watched his players — especially his seniors — cope with another instance of coming up just short.
“It’s my fault,” DuBose said. “I’ve got to figure it out. You can’t get here (to the semifinals) three years in a row and come up short. Going undefeated and all those type things are great, but we’re here to win championships at Central. It’s what we’ve got to have, and it’s what they deserve.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports