When Wetumpka kicker Alex Londell nailed a 19-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining, it appeared that the Indians had completed a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa.
Then, chaos ensued.
After Hillcrest quarterback Ethan Crawford completed two short passes to get the Patriots to the Wetumpka 41-yard line, Hillcrest set up for what it had hoped to be a miraculous ending. The Patriots made it happen.
After several laterals, Crawford ran the final 45 of those 59 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown with no time left, giving Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa a 34-30 win at Hohenburg Field.
The Patriots (4-0) were not uncomfortable in their situation.
“We practice that every Thursday,” Patriots head coach Sam Adams said. “We always tell them don’t get tackled with the ball. This is huge for us to come here and get this win. We had to battle back. They had to battle back. It was a thrilling game.”
The game was delayed for over an hour due to lightning with Wetumpka leading 13-7 at halftime.
Crawford threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score. His 22-yard run just under a minute into the second half gave the Patriots a 14-13 lead.
Andre Siler caught two touchdown passes, including a 33-yarder with 7:23 left which gave the Patriots a 28-27 lead.
The final play was not without controversy as several on the Wetumpka sideline felt that one of the final Hillcrest laterals was a forward pass, which would have caused a penalty and the end of the game.
Wetumpka (2-2) began their celebration of victory, then watched as the Patriots did their own. There was even a small skirmish at midfield following the final whistle.
“I’m extremely honored to be the coach of the Wetumpka Indians,” Wetumpka head coach Tim Perry said. “These kids fought their hearts out tonight. They did everything we asked them to do. They have tremendous heart and I’m extremely proud of them.”
Wetumpka came back from a 21-13 deficit in the third quarter to take the lead in the final seconds. Robert Rose scored on a 54-yard run to open the scoring for the Indians and Stone Minnifield scored the first of his two touchdowns from 11 yards out.
Justin Crumbaugh’s 19-yard run and a nine-yard score from Minnifield gave the Indians a 27-21 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Indians began their final drive at their own 19 with just over four minutes left. Crumbaugh had a 45-yard run, then Rose completed a 12-yard pass and galloped for a 14-yard run with 47 seconds left to set up Londell’s potential game-winning kick.
The Indians will look to rebound when it takes on Benjamin Russell next Friday. Still, the swing of emotions on the final play will be a harboring memory.
“These guys are unbelievable,” Perry said. “They had several chances to let their downs and let Hillcrest win. I know it’s a loss on the scoreboard, but not in our hearts. We made the plays we needed to put ourselves in position to win.”