Senior placekicker Dylan Clark booted a 23-yard field goal in overtime to cap an unlikely comeback by Marlboro County High Friday night. Clark's kick boosted the Bulldogs to a 16-13 victory.
"I'm just proud of our guys' determination and resilience. We made plays when we had to. Down by 13, they refused to give up and got this win," said head coach Bobby Collins, who got a Gatorade bath during the postgame celebration.
Midway through the third quarter a Bulldog victory looked to be highly unlikely. Lakewood had just partially blocked a Marlboro punt and, leading 13-0, they had the ball at the Marlboro 35.
However, the Bulldog defense refused to surrender points that would have sealed the game, given the sluggish nature of the Marlboro offense. A tackle for lost yardage, followed by a sack on fourth down ended the threat.
"Our defense kept us in the game. They forced turnovers and even when Lakewood moved the ball, they were able to get the drives stopped," said Collins.
After a holding penalty, the Bulldog offense finally answered. Hakeem Stanback connected with Quatrice Bostic for a 36-yard gain to move into Gator territory.
Moments later, the Bulldogs faced a fourth and 10 at the Lakewood 27. Stanback rolled out to his right to escape the pass rush, then hit JaCardo Riggins down the sidelines. Riggins raced past the Gator defense to the endzone.
Clark's extra point cut the Gators' lead to 13-7 with 3:20 left in the third quarter.
The newly rejuvenated defense held the Gators to one first down then a punt.
The Bulldogs took over near midfield on the first play of the fourth period. They went to their wildcat offensive package with direct snaps to running back D.J. Hicks.
Marlboro smashed their way deep into Lakewood territory, alternating Hicks and fellow senior running back Riggins and Natorian Watson.
The Gators finally got the march stopped and the Bulldogs turned it over on downs.
The Marlboro defense held the Gators to three plays and a punt, giving the offense another chance with five minutes left to play.
After a couple of incompletions, Stanback hit Bostic for a first down at the Gators' 35. Three plays later the pair connected again, with Stanback delivering a perfect strike to Bostic between three defenders. Bostic caught the ball at the 7-yard line and sprinted into the endzone.
The Gators stormed through to block the extra point, leaving the score tied at 13 with 2:58 to play.
Lakewood tried to move to retake the lead by passing the ball. The decision about lost the game for the Gators in regulation.
Marlboro's Elijah Reid picked off a Lakewood pass and returned it to the Gators' 17. After two rushes gained only four yards, Stanback had to spike the ball to give Clark a chance to kick a game winning field goal.
A problem with the snap to the holder resulted in the ball trickling back to Clark, who picked it up and attempted a pass. A Gator defensive lineman picked it off and started to rumble up the field. Luckily for Marlboro County, Stanback, who was the holder, was able to grab him before he got going, preserving the tie.
In the overtime, Lakewood got the ball first but the Gators lost 20 yards on first down due to a bad snap.
Two plays later, Ben Hall, the Gator's quarterback tossed his fourth interception of the game, picked off by the Bulldogs' Elijah Chalmurs.
Marlboro then ran the ball three times to the 4-yard line, setting up Clark's winning kick.
Lakewood had taken the lead late in the first half, capping a 74-yard drive with a 2-yard run. The missed extra point would come back to haunt the Gators.
They added a 20-yard rushing touchdown on the first drive of the second half. The Gators ended the ensuing Bulldog drive with a partially blocked punt but the Bulldogs controlled the action from that point.
Stanback finished 8 of 18 for 156 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Bostic led the receivers with 6 catches for 120 yards and the tying score. Hicks rushed for 65 yards on 19 attempts.
"We had a bunch of seniors step up here in the last few minutes. It's great to see them celebrate a big win," said Collins.
The Bulldogs improve to 2-1 overall and in Region 6-AAA. They will host Lake City (2-1) Friday night in their homecoming game.