CCMSAL Football Champions
Eagles able to go the distance
by Chris Goltermann
Not many quarterbacks are called on in overtime to throw the go-ahead touchdown and then to make a game-winning stop on defense.
But Madras eighth-grader Kyle McLaren and his Eagles teammates delivered in both instances during Tuesday’s Coweta County Middle School Athletic League Championship football game at Northgate High’s Henry Seldon Field.
After trading score for score and play for play through four quarters, the difference between the No. 1 seeded Madras and No. 2 Lee came down to a single play in a 22-20 overtime victory that capped off an undefeated 2013 season for the Eagles.
Joshua Martin’s two-point attempt off the right side — in a near identical play that had helped the Wolves send the game to overtime with just under three minutes to play in the fourth quarter — found a sea of red Madras jerseys, with McLaren’s No. 16 making the initial hit that left the Lee runner short of the mark to clinch the victory.
It was the second consecutive football title for the Eagles’ program led by coaches Ernie Creel, Rich Malinofsky, John Skalski and Roy Hitchcock while capping off a 7-0 record this fall.
Lee, which finished 6-2 under head coach Patrick Harris, nearly snatched it out of the Eagles’ grasp while scoring the opening six points of the game and then matching Madras’ go-ahead score in the fourth quarter to force overtime, where both teams got a chance to convert from the 15-yard-line starting with Madras.
Through four quarters of play, the two teams played to a standstill, with Madras gaining 192 total yards to Lee’s 175. Both took separate leads on opposite ends of halftime, each time only to be countered by their opponent in a span of under four minutes.
The counterbalance continued into overtime before game-deciding two-point conversions.
In the first overtime possession, McLaren, who connected on two of five passes in the fourth quarter including a 43-yard touchdown strike to teammate Levi Robinson to open the final period with a 14-6 lead, converted on the team’s third snap when receiver Devante Johnson reached up to grab a 9-yard throw while shadowed by a Lee defender.
The Madras quarterback then decided the game with his feet, running in the ensuing two-point conversion to put the pressure on Lee on its first overtime possession. McLaren finished 13 of 25 passing for 142 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Wolves needed seven plays to convert, picking up seven on first down when Martin darted to his right. Six snaps later, with the game on the line on fourth and goal after possession stalled inside the five, Josh Russell scampered in for his second touchdown of the game to give Lee one more chance at forcing double overtime.
Martin, who had a 16-yard gain to start Lee’s game-tying drive in the fourth quarter, couldn’t find the mark, however, on his final carry.
It was a tough ending for Lee, especially after taking advantage of a botched punt fake that closed Madras’ first possession of the game and converting off a short field to take a 6-0 lead.
Omar Bringas was two-yards shy of the first down marker after taking off with the punt snap, leaving the Wolves 19 yards away from the Madras end zone. Lee reached it on an eight-play drive highlighted by a 23-yard pass directly off a holding call from quarterback Christian Reid to receiver Patrick Harris that set up 1st-and-Goal.
Madras was able to respond late in the first quarter after making a special teams play of its own when Braydon Carlisle recovered a fumbled punt snap inside the Lee 10-yard line. On the ensuing play, Nick Carter raced six yards untouched to tie the game 6-6 after one quarter.
Both defenses took over from there while the teams were equally hampered by eight total penalties in the first half, five by Lee. The Wolves finished with minus-7 yards by halftime compared to 16 by Madras.
The Eagles, though, dominated possession in the third quarter on a 13-play drive that ate up 4-plus minutes thanks to a pair of third-down conversions, the latter on a 29-yard strike from McLaren to Carter. The Wolves’ seventh penalty of the game — an offsides call on fourth down — kept the march going for Madras to the Lee 14 yard-line, only to have McLaren’s next pass attempt toward the goal line deflected into the arms of Lee’s Harris for an interception.
Madras’ defense, however, forced a punt with Lee backed up in its own end. Taking over from the Wolves’ 43, McLaren’ next pass attempt on second down caught Robinson in stride for a go-ahead score with 5:47 to play in the fourth quarter. The Eagle quarterback then found Bringas while backpeddling under pressure for the two-point conversion and a 14-12 advantage.
Lee, though, needed eight plays to march 72 yards to knot the score. Four consecutive gains on the ground brought the ball from the Wolves’ 43 to the Madras 25 before Reid connected with Harris on a 23-yard strike along the left sidelines to set up 1st and Goal. Despite being backed up outside the 10 on a penalty, Martin danced off right end, found a lane in between two Madras defenders and scampered in, closing the gap to 14-12.
Following a Madras timeout, Lee’s Russell converted the two-point play on a run off left tackle, tying the game with 2:53 to play.
Eagles 22, Wolves 20
Lee 6 0 0 8 8 — 22
Madras 6 0 0 8 6 — 20
L — Josh Russell 1 run (pass failed), 3:30
M — Nick Carter 6 run (run failed), 0:00
M — Levi Robinson 43 pass from Kyle McLaren (McLaren pass to Omar Bringas), 5:33
L — Joshua Martin 10 run (Russell run), 2:53
M — Devante Johnson 9 pass from McLaren (McLaren run)
L — Russell 3 run (run failed)