VELMA — Normally when a team fumbles the ball six times, chances are they aren’t going to come out on the winning end of things.
But, Friday night’s first-round playoff game at Jeb Bryant Stadium between the Velma-Alma Comets and Watonga Eagles was anything but normal.
Despite four lost fumbles, and falling behind with 8:28 left in regulation, V-A managed to fight back with two touchdowns to snatch victory and advance to the second round with a 52-48 decision.
“I’m very proud, especially of our six seniors and they way they battled,” V-A coach Greg Gothard said. “We told the boys at the half to just play Comet football and hang onto it. At no time during the game did we ever look frustrated. We knew Watonga was going to be tough, but we didn’t think they would be able to do what they did against our running attack.”
Comet fans were forced to wait until the dying seconds of the fourth, when Alan Beck sealed the game with an interception, which extinguished the Eagles chances of a game-winning score.
“We were playing in cover two and their quarterback was looking over to the far end,” Beck said about the interception play. “I just ran my butt off and got over there to make the catch. It’s an indescribable feeling right now for me. We all kept fighting this entire game.”
In what turned out to be a wild fourth quarter, Watonga took its first lead of the night at 48-40 when Matthew Plummer scored from one yard out, before quarterback Travis Hartfield found Justin Waugh for the two point conversion.
What occurred over the next eight and a half minutes can only be described as madness.
On the ensuing drive, V-A fumbled the ball which allowed the Eagles to take over at their own 46 yard line.
Five plays later on 4th and 7, the Comets caught a break when Colby Martin broke through the line and blocked the attempted punt, sending it back to the Eagles 29-yard line.
Nearly 10 plays later, the Comets were knocking on the doorstep at the goal line, when they caught another break.
While trying to push through the pile into the endzone, Dallen Mercer lost control of the ball, but to the relief of Velma fans Beck was right there to jump on the ball and score the touchdown for the Comets at the 3:05 mark.
However, a missed two-point conversion meant the Comets were still down by a deuce to the Eagles, with time running out.
Then came the onside kick, which after a mad scramble ended up in the hands of the Comets.
Nine plays later, V-A was facing a 3rd and 6 from the Eagles 28 yard line and looking for a breakthrough.
To no one’s surprise it was two Comet seniors who made the magic happen, Mercer and Checotah Lynn.
Mercer took the direct snap, rolled to his left and released a long pass which found Lynn wide open in space for a 27-yard gain, landing him at the 1-yard line.
“Andrew (McGuire) came in and said ‘Buccaneer Special,’” Lynn said about the play. “I told Dallen to get it to me and he said I’ll put it where you can get it. It was a team effort all around.”
Moments later, the Comets were back in front after a 1-yard plunge from Mercer.
“It felt good scoring that touchdown,” Mercer said. “I didn’t want my senior year to end in the first round of the playoffs, especially on my home field.”
Watonga only needed two plays to strike first with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Hartfield to Mario Reyes, just 53 seconds into the game.
Kelton Brown got V-A on the board with a 4-yard run at the 6:06 mark of the first, before Lynn extended the Comets’ lead with a 57-yard touchdown run just before the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Hartfield struck again, this time with an 18-yard touchdown run, giving the Eagles a 20-16 lead at the 9:11 mark.
D’Qwan Loneman made it 14-8 with a four-yard touchdown run at the 5:29 mark of the first.
Two big plays helped V-A regain the momentum.
After Mercer intercepted Hartfield’s pass deep in Comet territory, quarterback Andrew McGuire connected with Lynn for an 86 yard touchdown pass on the next play to make it a 24-20 lead with 4:12 remaining before halftime.
Watonga (6-5) though, had an answer as Hartfield found Plummer for a 44-yard pass over the middle. However, Plummer fumbled the ball at the goal line but was spared the blushes thanks to teammate Brandon Parker.
With 2:37 left before halftime, McGuire found Mercer for a 54-yard touchdown pass, ensuring the Comets would take a 32-26 lead into halftime.
Mercer got one more touchdown in the third, while Hartfield and Loneman also scored touchdowns.
V-A (8-3) advances to face Thomas-Fay-Custer on the road Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in the second round.
Watonga 14 12 14 8 — 48
Velma 16 16 8 12 — 52
Watonga — Mario Reyes 21-yard pass from Travis Hartfield (Darren Williams kick), 11:07.
Velma-Alma — Kelton Brown 4-yard run (Checotah Lynn pass from Andrew McGuire), 6:06.
Watonga — D’Qwan Loneman 4-yard run (Williams kick), 5:29
Velma-Alma — Lynn 57-yard run (Jake McGuire pass from Andrew McGuire), 2:01
Watonga — Hartfield 18-yard run (Run failed), 9:11
Velma-Alma — Lynn 86-yard pass from Andrew McGuire (Kelton Brown pass from Andrew McGuire), 4:12
Watonga — Brandon Parker 1-yard fumble recovery (Kick failed), 3:11
Velma-Alma — Dallen Mercer 54-yard pass from Andrew McGuire (Brown pass from Andrew McGuire), 2:37
Velma-Alma — Mercer 25-yard run (Brown pass from Andrew McGuire), 9:24
Watonga — Hartfield 1-yard run (Williams kick), 4:35
Watonga — Loneman 1-yard run (Williams kick), 1:57
Watonga — Matthew Plummer 1-yard run (Justin Waugh pass from Hartfield), 8:28
Velma-Alma — Alan Beck 1-yard fumble recovery (Pass failed), 3:05
Velma-Alma — Mercer 1-yard run (Pass failed), 0:27
First Downs 16 14
Rushing Yards 202 318
Passing Yards 266 201
Total Offense 468 519
C-A-I 13-28-2 7-12-0
Penalties-Yds 8-45 7-55
RUSHING: Watonga — Travis Hartfield 22-129, D’Qwan Loneman 13-70, Tre’ Parker 1-2, Matthew Plummer 1-1; Velma-Alma — Dallen Mercer 35-217, Kelton Brown 9-32, Checotah Lynn 2-63, Andrew McGuire 3-6.
PASSING: Velma-Alma — Andrew McGuire 6-9-0, 174 yards, Dallen Mercer 1-3-0 27 yards. Watonga — Travis Hartfield 13-28-2 266 yards.
RECEIVING: Watonga — Mario Reyes 8-182, Matthew Plummer 2-49, D’Qwan Loneman 2-18, Brandon Parker 1-17. Velma-Alma — Checotah Lynn 2-113, Dallen Mercer 2-55, Kelton Brown 1-15, Austin Dennis 1-11, Jake McGuire 1-7.