Squadron crashes in fourth quarter
After sewing up a Class 2A state playoff berth with a 36-0 victory over B.B. Comer two weeks ago, Highland Home finished Region 3 play with a 4-3 record.
The young Squadron stood 4-5 overall on the season as they traveled north to Montgomery to attempt to go .500 on the regular season. But the task at hand was a difficult one as they took on the Class 3A, tenth-ranked Montgomery Academy Eagles at McLemore Field.
Leading 21-14 with 10:45 remaining in the game, costly turnovers on back-to-back drives by the Squadron's offense deep in their own territory exhausted any chance they had to pull out the upset. The Eagles went on to win 35-21.
Highland Home took an early 7-0 lead with 9:43 in the first quarter when freshman quarterback Deymond Sankey ran in from 14 yards out for the score. The big play of the drive was a stellar, 42-yard run by freshman tailback Rico Harris.
Leading 7-0, the Squadron defensive unit received a golden opportunity on the Eagles' opening offensive series as quarterback Tripp Swann laid the ball down at Highland Home's 41-yard-line. Squadron defensive tackle Chase Reese pounced on the pigskin to give Highland Home possession.
Unable to penetrate the Eagles' defensive unit, the Flyboys were forced to punt and not capitalize on the opportunity.
A beautiful 41-yard punt pinned the Eagles offensive until down at their own 9-yard-line with 6:22 to go in the first stanza.
From the shadow of their own goalpost, the Eagles drove 91 yards in 16 plays with Swann and running back Walter Parker carrying a majority of the load from their Wing-T formation. Parker put the home team's first points on the board as he galloped into the end zone from six yards out. The kick tied the game at 7-7 early in the second quarter.
After a nice return by Highland Home senior Tony Merriweather on the ensuing kickoff, the Squadron wasted little time in tallying their second score. Sankey connected with Merriweather on a 25-yard pass for the visitors' second score of the night to cap off a four-play, 66-yard drive.
Leading 14-7 and playing of the first half in the Eagles' territory, the Flyboys' defense got their second turnover of the game when defensive back Jessie Webb picked off a Eagle pass with 4:51 left until halftime. But two play later Highland Home's offensive unit returned the favor as they fumbled the ball back to the Eagles at midfield.
At that point, the Eagles moved the ball 50 yard in six plays and scored on an 11-yard pass from Swann to tight end Wes Cutcliffe.
With the score tied 14-14, the Squadron's offense began working out of its two-minute drill as they drove the ball to Montgomery Academy's 11-yard-line. Facing fourth-and-10 with eight second left in the first half, place kicker Clemmie Nichols attempted a 27-yard field goal, which sailed wide left as the half ended.
The Flyboys took their final lead of the game on a four-yard blast off left tackle by Rico Harris with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
Behind by a touchdown, the 8-2 Eagles started at their own 33-yard-line and in four plays had quickly moved the ball down to the Highland Home 18. From the sophomore Harris Brown raced the distance up the middle untouched tot he tie the game once again, 21-21.
On the Squadron's ensuing possession, Eagle defensive end Mike Gaby recovered the first of two Flyboy turnovers as he picked up an O.D. Bryant fumbled at the 27-yard-line. The Eagles took their first lead of the night on a two-yard run by fullback Sam Hunter, which was setup by a 25-yard scamper by Swann.
Behind 28-21, the Squadron turned the ball over once again when Sankey dropped the ball at the 20-yard-line. Montgomery Academy's Alan Bishop recovered.
Any chances of a Highland Home rally were squashed as Swann covered the final 10 yards on a keeper and an Eagle score, as the home team went on to win 35-21.
Following the game, Highland Home Head Coach Bob Farrior stated that the two fumbles late in the game were the turning points of the game.
The Flying Squadron will be on the road this week as they travel to Silas to take on the Southern Choctaw Indians in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association's Class 2A playoffs. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.