DOWN TO THE WIRE: Brantley scores in final seconds

Published 2:11 am Saturday, September 19, 2015

Red Level’s John Lee runs the ball during the game on Friday night. He scored two touchdowns and 182 rushing yards.

Red Level’s John Lee runs the ball during the game on Friday night. He scored two touchdowns and 182 rushing yards.


In a down-to-the-buzzer heartbreaker, the Red Level Tigers (1-3) lost to region foe Brantley Friday night. Red Level hasn’t defeated Brantley since 1991 and that, along with a big win over Florala last week, led to an electric atmosphere inside Bobby Dye Stadium Friday night.

After a scoreless defensive struggle from both teams in the first quarter, Red Level tailback John Lee broke open the scoring with a 69-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Following a blocked PAT the Tigers led 6-0. After a short punt late in the second quarter, the Bulldogs tied things up on a touchdown pass from quarterback Jacob Free to receiver Tommy Spivey. Following the successful PAT, Brantley led 7-6 heading into halftime.

The two defenses stiffened up again in the third quarter in a tough, gritty effort. The Tigers were led on defense by a particularly hard-hitting performance from defensive end Ontaryo Nearor’s 11 tackles and middle linebacker Dameyune Scott’s 12 tackles. Tigers quarterback Dylan Jordan was hit all night long and even suffered a nasty looking cut on his arm at one point, but remained in the game to lead his offense. Jordan would finish the game with 80 yards passing and an interception on defense.

Starting the fourth quarter, Free led his Bulldogs down the field on a 86-yard scoring drive capped off by his fourth down touchdown pass to extend the Brantley lead to 13-6 following a blocked PAT. On the very next play, however, Red Level’s Lee broke off another long touchdown run. This time going for 75 yards. Jordan then converted a two-point conversion to receiver Jeffrey Perdue to give the Tigers the 14-13 lead. Lee finished the game leading all rushers with 182 yards and two touchdowns along with nine tackles on defense.

Brantley answered by driving all the way to the Red Level 25-yard line, but the Red Level defense held the line once more and forced the Bulldogs to turn the ball over on downs following a Free incomplete pass.

In a decision that Red Level head coach James Wise criticized himself for, the Red Level Tigers attempted to run the clock out on the ensuing possession by kneeling the ball rather than attempting to gain a first down to ice the game. “There was a little mismanagement on the clock on my part, I couldn’t quite burn it out,” Wise said. The decision forced the Tigers to punt the ball with 26 seconds left.

Free led his team down the field and a pass interference penalty brought the ball to the Red Level 25. With 2.3 seconds left in the game, Free threw what would end up being the game-winning touchdown in a breathtaking finish to give his Bulldogs the 19-14 win. Free would finish the game completing 13 of his 23 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.

After the game, Wise said it’s rare for a game to come down to a single play and that he was proud of his team. “Football rarely ever comes down to one play, but when it does sometimes it breaks your way, sometimes it breaks theirs. I couldn’t be more proud of these boys, but I really didn’t know what to say to them because I’ve been in a close game like this before,” he said. “Nothing you say is really going to make them happy, but I felt like they had nothing else left to give and we did not back down one bit from Brantley.”

The Red Level Tigers host the JF Shields Panthers (0-3) next week at home. The Bulldogs move to 2-1 in 1A, Region 2 while The Tigers fall to 1-1.