Will Edmond picked the perfect time to score his first career touchdown for Swansea.
He returned a botched punt 42 yards in the fourth quarter to rally the Tigers to a 32-28 victory over visiting Brookland-Cayce in a key Region 5-3A contest Friday night.
The winning score was set up when the Tigers defense stopped the Bearcats at its own 49-yard line.
The snap on the punt was low and unable to be handled, but the B-C punter was able to get off a low, wobbly kick that Edmond hauled in at the 42-yard line. He broke to the outside, ran through a tackle along the sideline and raced in for the winning score with 4:04 remaining.
“I had to guard against the fake, and then I saw he didn’t catch the snap,” Edmond said. “I thought he was going to run it, but he got a punt off. I just followed it, caught it and ran it back. It’s great to help out the team like that.”
The Tigers overcame a 14-point halftime deficit and a 10-point fourth quarter hole to put themselves in position to finish second in the region and host a home playoff game in two weeks. Swansea closes the regular season against Gilbert. Strom Thurmond is in first place and closes with Midland Valley. The Tigers and Mustangs are tied for second, but Swansea defeated them earlier this year to hold the tiebreaker.
“I’m real proud of my kids for coming back from a difficult situation,” Swansea coach Chad Leaphart said. “We were left for dead at the half, but I had confidence in my kids that they were going to come out and battle. They’ve worked too hard and invested too much not to come out and battle, and that’s what they did.”
The fourth quarter rally started after the Bearcats took a 28-18 lead with 10:39 remaining on a 32-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver pass DaJon Amaker to Bernard McCall on fourth down.
Swansea (6-3, 3-1) answered with a nine-play, 84-yard drive to pull within three on a 1-yard quarterback sneak from Clay Lucas with 7:10 left before the botched snap proved to be the difference-maker.
Fourth downs were a problem for Brookland-Cayce. It averaged 19 yards on five punts, and a fourth down call in the third quarter gave Swansea life when they were down by 11.
The Bearcats were stuffed from their 37-yard line, and five plays later, Chance Walker scored from four yards out. After the two-point conversion, the B-C lead was trimmed to 21-18.
“There are a lot of things that happened with some dropped balls and so many penalties, and it’s hard to overcome that,” Brookland-Cayce coach Rusty Charpia said. “I’m not going to take anything away from Swansea, they’re a good team, but we had a good chance to win and didn’t. I don’t know if it was a bad snap on the punt or not. It was a little low. Those things happen, but I have to look at the film without making too many comments.”
Zeke Walker, who finished with 77 yards rushing and 174 yards passing, almost rallied Brookland-Cayce. The Bearcats drove to the Tigers’ 27-yard line before Brandon Walker intercepted a pass in the end zone to seal the win.
“There are always a handful of plays that will decide a game, and fortunately for us we were on the right side of those,” Leaphart said. “I’m real proud of Edmond and Walker. Those kids have been thrown into our lineups because of the all the injuries, and I’m just proud of them for stepping up and making big plays.”
The Bearcats defense controlled the first half and held the Tigers to 100 yards of total offense while Walker scored on runs of 22 and 1 yards. Ti Myers added a 1-yard touchdown for the 21-7 halftime lead. Swansea’s only score of the half came on a Chance Walker 2-yard run.
After winning five in a row to start the season, Brookland-Cayce (6-3, 1-3) has dropped three of four games and needs a win over Airport to secure a playoff spot. Only the top three seeds from the region are guaranteed a playoff spot, but Charpia said his team would be in with a win.
“If we win that final game, we’ll be in the playoffs,” Charpia said. “We just have to keep our heads up.”