Irmo kicker Ben Hinson had a feeling as soon as the Yellow Jackets’ Region 4-4A showdown with Blythewood reached overtime, it would come down to a kick to win.
It took five overtimes for his feeling to come through, but Hinson nailed a 27-yard field goal to give Irmo a 37-34 victory against the Bengals at W.C. Hawkins Stadium.
“I felt all along it was going to come down to a kick,” the Shrine Bowl kicker said. “I wasn’t that nervous, and it wasn’t a long field goal. Really, there was no pressure on me. If I make the kick we win, but if I miss, we just go into another overtime.”
The winning kick was set up when Irmo senior Ronald Millhouse intercepted a desperation throw in the end zone on the Bengals’ series to start the fifth overtime. Blythewood was whistled for intentional grounding on second down, and after the 5-yard penalty, quarterback Kylen Binn threw a pass into the corner of the end zone that Millhouse nabbed.
Irmo coach Bob Hanna wasted little time in making the call to send Hinson out for the kick. Hinson trotted out on first down and kicked it dead center for the winning points, setting off a wild celebration along the Yellow Jackets’ sideline.
“I knew as soon as we got that interception, we were going to go right out and kick the field goal,” Hinson said.
Hanna didn’t want something bad to happen.
“He’s as good as there is, so why take a chance of turning the ball over,” Hanna said. “There was no doubt in my mind. Ben is automatic. I knew if given the chance, I would send him out there to kick it. The difference in these two football teams is razor’s edge, so we preached that someone had to make a play. We made the plays at the right time.”
The victory gives Irmo (5-5, 3-1) control of the Region 4-4A race with one game to play. The Yellow Jackets can claim the top spot with a win next week against a Lugoff-Elgin team that has won one game. It’s a far cry from the 0-3 start they had to open the season. A loss would have hurt Irmo’s playoff chances, but now they are in line to host.
“It’s a shame someone had to lose this game, but if we win next week, we’re region champions,” Hanna said. “We’ve eliminated mistakes and learned some things about perseverance and adversity. I’ve never been prouder of a group of kids. They could have quit a long time ago, so to be where they’re at right now is special.”
Blythewood (8-2, 3-1) saw their eight-game winning streak snapped with the loss, and the Bengals need a win next week against Ridge View to have a chance to host a first-round playoff game.
“This was like a playoff atmosphere, and I told the guys it was going to be a war,” Blythewood coach Reggie Kennedy said. “We have to put this one behind us and let it motivate us going into the playoffs.”
The game was tied at 10 at the end of regulation before they opened up the Kansas City-style shootout, each team starting on offense from the 10-yard line.
Blythewood had the ball first and scored on a 7-yard run by Binn to go up 17-10. Shyheim Copland, who had four touchdowns (three in overtime), answered with a 3-yard run on fourth down to force the second overtime.
Neither team had much offense in the second extra period, and Hinson kicked a 23-yard field goal. After the Bengals failed to move the ball, they settled for a 21-yard field goal from Greg Huegel.
Each team scored touchdowns on their next two possessions, and neither coach said they thought about going for the two-point conversion and the win. Kennedy was planning to go for two if the Bengals had scored on that fifth series, but Irmo’s fourth interception made that a moot point.
Blythewood turned it over six times. The Yellow Jackets had one giveaway.
“It was a heck of a game,” Kennedy said. “When you play a quality football team like Irmo, you just can’t turn the ball over as many times as we turned it over.
“We had a couple of bad breaks but we’re going to learn from it.”
Hanna was surprised at the number of turnovers his team forced. But he was ecstatic to come out on the winning end after several close losses earlier in the year.
“It was a great football game, and the people got their money’s worth tonight,” Hanna said. “I wish I was a spectator so I could have enjoyed it. But all the credit to these kids. They kept fighting and good things have happened for them.”
I – Shyheim Copland 1 run (Ben Hinson kick) 1:51
I – Hinson 22 FG :22
B – Greg Huegel 31 FG 4:26
B – Kylen Binn 2 run (Huegel kick) 1:27
B – Binn 7 run (Huegel kick)
I – Copland 3 run (Hinson kick)
I – Hinson 23 FG
B – Huegel 21 FG
B – Lynard Jamison 10 pass from Binn (Huegel kick)
I – Copland 2 run (Hinson kick)
I – Copland 1 run (Hinson kick)
B – Shyheim Brown 6 pass from Binn (Huegel kick)
I – Hinson 27 FG