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McKenzie holds off Geneva Co.

MCKENZIE – With his offense facing a fourth down and six yards to go on its own 37-yard line, McKenzie head coach Miles Brown rolled the dice against Geneva County.

And it was only the second quarter.

But the Tigers converted as quarterback Calvin Henderson hit Emmanuel Johnson for a pass play to the Bulldogs’ 38-yard line.

A few plays later, Henderson scored on a six-yard run, giving McKenzie a 19-14 lead at halftime.

The Tigers would relinquish the lead in the second half, but battle back to claim a 25-21 victory with a 94-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

Still, Brown’s gamble before halftime may have been the difference maker.

And it sent a message to his team: Play to win.

“Sometimes you have to take chances,” said Brown. “In life and in football. We were able to convert there, luckily. I don’t think that’s good coaching on my part, but it was good execution by our players.”

Henderson led the offense to three scores in the first half, but was visibly hobbled after suffering an ankle sprain early in the game.

Brown chanced a move in the fourth quarter, moving Johnson to the quarterback position after McKenzie’s defense stopped Geneva County at the Tigers’ six-yard line.

The sophomore responded.

Johnson gained 40 yards on a pair of running plays and then he connected on a 39-yard pass play to Melvin Owens to the Bulldogs’ nine-yard line.

Johnson’s only miscue was when he was about to score and fumbled the football, but lineman Tyler Bush recovered in the endzone for the McKenzie touchdown with ten minutes remaining in the game.

“Emmanuel Johnson did a superb job tonight,” said Brown. “He played a little quarterback for us last year and we’ve been working in practice on getting him some snaps. We put him in and he gave us that burst of energy we needed.”

The Tigers gave up the lead in the third quarter after the Bulldogs’ Tyriquo Reese had hit Kevin Key with a 16-yard touchdown pass, making the score 21-19. Geneva County’s rushing tandem of Karon White and Julian Ammons consistently found running room against the Tigers in the third quarter, controlling the clock and keeping McKenzie’s offense off the field.

The Tigers had just -3 yards in the third quarter.

“They just lined up and played smash mouth football,” said Brown. “We weren’t coming up and hitting them. You have to be physical in football and we weren’t getting the job done.”

The defense did the job with the game on the line, though.

Twice, after McKenzie scored the eventual game-winning touchdown, Geneva County had the ball.

Twice, the Tigers held.

The Bulldogs’ final possession died on its own 13-yard line.

Henderson had a 28-yard touchdown pass to Owens in the first half and Johnson scored on a 47-yard run also for McKenzie to lead the Tigers in the first half.

The Tigers were also wearing gold jerseys for the first time in school history, said Brown.

“They (the players) worked hard all summer with fundraisers and such to get those jerseys and I’m glad for them,” he said. “I’m glad they got a win with them, too, so they won’t be jinxed.”

The Tigers (6-0, 4-0) host Brantley next Friday night in a battle of unbeatens. The winner will claim first place in Class 1A – Region 1.