Red Level Tigers top Houston Academy in OT

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 28, 2003

RED LEVEL - Turnovers and a coaching decision cost the Houston Academy a shot at Luverne in the Class 2A sub-state game next Friday night.

Red Level (11-2) overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit to earn a 28-20 overtime win in the quarterfinals last night.

The Raiders (10-3) had the ball one-foot away from the goal line on fourth down with 1:29 remaining in regulation with the score knotted 20-20. HA Head Coach Rodney Dollar called a timeout and then sent his offense back onto the field.

The Raiders went for it on fourth down with a quarterback sneak. Red Level's defense came up big with a stop to take over possession of the ball at the one-inch line.

The Tigers' offense came back out on the field and ran a quarterback sneak for a three-yard gain and then dropped to a knee twice to run out the clock and send the game into overtime.

The Tigers won in the first overtime when senior running back Larry Hudson scored on third-and-goal from the seven with a run behind the right side of the offensive line. He got a few blocks to get close and once he smelled the end zone he would not be denied.

Hudson scored on second and third effort stretching the ball out to break the goal line just before his knee fell to the turf. The Tigers were on top 26-20 and decided to go for two. Hudson added a two-point conversion doing a Bo Jackson impression by leaping over the line of scrimmage and the "big uglies" for a 28-20 lead.

The Raiders got the ball for their first overtime possession and after losing three yards on first down went to the air. Troy Calloway had the tackle for the three-yard loss. The next play was a pass for five yards. On third-and-goal from the eight, HA went back to the air but the receiver had the ball knocked out of his hands by Chris Hendrix as he attempted to catch it in the back of the end zone.

The Raiders called a timeout to talk it over, and then went back to the air. This time a high pass went through the hands of a Raider receiver to end the game with Red Level earning a 28-20 win.

"This game is on my shoulders because we didn't kick a field goal," Houston Academy Head Coach Rodney Dollar said after the game. "I have the best kicker in the state and didn't let him kick."

Red Level Head Coach Tim Grimes said he did not want to see the kicker run out onto the field on fourth-and-goal.

"We had two big stops and they didn't try and kick a field goal," Grimes said. "I don't know Š I'm glad."

Grimes said the key was the way his players refused to lie down and play dead after falling behind 13-0.

"We never quit," Grimes said. "It would've been easy at halftime (to quit) with only two first downs and those both came on trick plays right before halftime."

Dollar said the Tigers did not give the ball to Larry Hudson in the first half. When Hudson starting getting caries in the second half Dollar got worried.

"The problem (for our defense) in the second half was that in the first half they didn't give the ball to number 20," Dollar said. "In the second half, they gave the ball to Hudson and I knew we were in trouble then.

"They just lined up and ran over us," he added.

The Riders took the opening possession of the game and marched down the field for a 7-0 lead. Hudson Atwell scored on a nine-yard run. Eric Whitlow added the PAT. The 14-play scoring drive took 10 minutes off the clock.

After Red Level failed to capitalize on two Houston Academy turnovers, the Raiders added to the lead just before halftime when Steven Surginer scored on a three-yard run. The PAT was no good, but the Raiders had a 13-0 lead with 29 seconds left in the first half.

Red Level scored on the opening possession of the second half with Hudson capping off a nine-play scoring drive with a 13-yard touchdown run. The two-point attempt was no good.

Houston Academy remained on top 13-6 with 8:29 left in the third.

The Raiders answered with a two-play scoring drive. Surginer scored on a 50-yard run to give the Raiders a 20-6 lead with 7:14 left in the third.

Red Level managed to score just before the end of the third quarter to make it 20-12. Hudson scored on a two-yard run up the middle. The two-point try was no good.

Houston Academy drove down the field to the nine-yard line on seven running plays. Then, the Raiders attempted a pass. Red Level senior Jermaine Jackson intercepted the pass in the end zone and returned it to the eight-yard line.

The Tigers failed to earn a first down and punted the ball back to Houston Academy. The ball seemed to bounce the Tigers' way as the return man bobbled and then fumbled the punt. Red Level's Princeton Ryce pounced on the football to give the Tigers a first down.

The Raiders' defense allowed the Tigers to march down to the five-yard line before getting a turnover on downs.

The Raiders' offense, however, gave the ball right back to Red Level. On first down, Maloy recovered a fumble to give the Tigers' great field position with a

first-and-10 and the 12-yard line.

Two plays later, the Tigers were tied with the Raiders at 20-20.

Red Level junior quarterback Russell Rigdon hit Hudson for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Rigdon then found Maloy for a two-point conversion to knot the score at 20-20 with 4:21 remaining in regulation.

The Raiders then marched down to the one-foot line before turning it over on downs. Red Level then ran out the clock to send the game into overtime.

The Red Level Tigers will host the Luverne Tigers next Friday night in a sub-state game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Crystal Springs Park Stadium. Admission is $6. The winner of the Red Level-Luverne game will advance to the Class 2A State Championship Game in Birmingham's Legion Field.