Greenville survives in OT versus Spartans
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2006
For the first time since the 1994 championship season, a third round playoff game will be held in Greenville as the Tigers toppled the Pleasant Grove Spartans in double overtime Friday night, 21-14.
After relying heavily on the rushing attack for most of the season, the Tigers unleashed the passing attack, and wide receiver Lynn Lewis, in the thrilling win.
“The effort these kids gave tonight is kind of the same effort they have given all season,” Greenville head coach Bryant Vincent said. “They believe they belong (in the playoffs) and they just never gave up.”
Playing on a muddy and sloppy turf, both the Tigers and the Spartans had a tough time getting things going in the first half, but it was Greenville who struck first.
On the first play of the second quarter, Greenville quarterback Casey Weston connected with senior receiver Lewis for an 18-yard touchdown strike to put the Tigers up 7-0 after the Weston extra point.
Pleasant Grove, determined not to go home early, answered the Greenville drive when Mr. Football candidate Frank Warren raced 45 yards for the Spartan score with just less than five minutes to go until the half.
With the game tied at 7-7, the Spartans got another chance to score with less than a minute remaining before the half when Warren got past a Greenville defender.
Although Warren was wide open for the pass, he dropped the sure 38-yard touchdown and time ran out before the Spartans could line up for a field goal.
“(Warren) was open, but he didn't catch it and that is just one of those things where it went our way,” Vincent said with a sigh of relief.
To start the second half, Greenville took the ball and controlled the clock for almost the entire quarter.
With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Weston rushed 13 yards for the score, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty.
“My feelings were hurt because I thought I had scored,” Weston said with a smile.
With the ball back to the 20-yard line, Weston connected with Lewis two plays later for the touchdown, giving the Tigers a 14-7 lead after the Weston extra point.
In the fourth quarter, the Greenville defense held the Spartans on several key fourth downs, but a pass interference call with three minutes remaining in the game gave Pleasant Grove the ball deep in Tiger territory and with just under two minutes remaining, the Spartans connected for an 11-yard touchdown pass, thus tying the game, sending it into overtime.
And that is when the Tiger defense really stepped it up.
With the ball at the 10-yard line on the opening possession of overtime, Weston connected with sophomore Jamontay Pilson on third down for the 7-yard touchdown, giving the Tigers a 21-14 lead after the Weston extra point.
On the Spartans' ensuing possession, the Tiger defense tightened up and held Pleasant Grove on four consecutive plays, thus securing the second round playoff victory.
For the Greenville offense, Weston was 11-of-16 for 76 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for 87 yards on 26 carries.
Weston, who has rushed more than he has passed in recent weeks, credited the Tiger game plan for his three-touchdown effort.
“We knew they had a big (defensive) line and we knew that if we had time enough and could get past that line, their secondary was weak enough for us to open up the passing game,” Weston said.
Weston's main target, Lewis, finished the night with two receptions for 35 yards and two touchdowns.
Senior running back Brandon Cheatham had another big night for the Tigers as he pounded out 90 yards on 18 carries.
On the defensive side of the ball, Lewis was the leading tackler with eight and two pass deflections. Pilson finished the game with seven tackles, one quarterback hurry and two pass deflections.
“You can't say enough about Jamontay,” Greenville defensive coordinator Ernest Hill said. “When we needed him, he said ‘I got it, Coach, I got it. I will make a big play' and he did.”
Also for the Tiger defense, William Thomas was in on 10 tackles while Marcus Mickles had three touchdown-saving pass deflections, all in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers now advance to the third round of the Class 5A playoffs and will play host to UMS-Wright.
“This is the biggest game at Tiger Stadium since the Homewood championship game in 1994, period,” Vincent said. “It's the biggest game in Greenville in 12 years and we need everyone there.”
Kickoff for Friday night's third round playoff game against UMS-Wright at Tiger Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.