Fayetteville and McKenzie were both undefeated and ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the state all season long.
Both teams had high scoring offenses coming into their quarterfinal battle, but this was a defensive contest.
McKenzie kicked a fieldgoal with no time left on the clock and escape with a 20-18 win.
The game started like a shootout. McKenzie scored on their first play with a long scoring run and took a 7-0 lead. After stopping the Tigers offense, the Rebels scored again quickly and took a 14-0 lead over Fayetteville. And this is where the game seemed to turn around for the Tigers.
With the passing game struggling, the Tigers leaned on their offensive line and hard running by Aljarea Johnson and Dalton Criss. Fayetteville drove down the field and scored but missed the two-point score when going for the extra points, which was crucial. It cut the lead to 14-6.
The Tigers got a stop from their defense and the offense again gutted their way down the field and pushed their way into the endzone. The two-pointer failed and the Tigers trailed 14-12.
McKenzie got a couple of plays at the end of the half and moved into fieldgoal range before kicking a 38-yard fieldgoal as time expired in the first half. The Rebels led 17-12 at intermission.
The second half was a defensive battle as both teams got three-and-outs numerous times in the third quarter. The Tigers didn’t allow the Rebels to cross midfield but once in the second half.
Fayetteville again went to the ground game, bulled their way into the endzone and took a 18-17 lead late in the fourth quarter. With 2:49 left on the clock, McKenzie had the ball at their 18-yard-line. The Rebels used some key passes and a huge QB run to get themselves into fieldgoal range. McKenzie kicked a fieldgoal as time expired from 22 yards out to steal the win, 20-18.
Fayetteville might not have played their best game of the year, but they showed their heart and guts as they found a way to stop the high-powered McKenzie offense for most of the game.
The Tigers fell behind early 14-0 and could have just said it’s too cold and took their loss, but that’s not how these Tigers are wired. Instead they buckled down and battled back to outscore the Rebels 18-6 for the rest of the game.
The loss is hard to take for sure. Fayetteville had their chances to get the win, but their heart showed and they left it on the field. That’s all you can ask from a team that’s been considered outstanding all year.
The state title is in two weeks, but the state title was actually played when these two teams squared off. It was a great season for Fayetteville, it just ended a little quicker than they hoped.