Brookland-Cayce was staring down a 13-game losing streak to rival Airport on Friday night at District Stadium. But the Bearcats defense made the biggest play in a series of big plays to secure a 35-30 victory to earn their first victory in the series since 2006.
Airport had the ball on the 1-yard line as time was expiring and the middle of the B-C defense stopped Kadarius Jackson just short of the goal line to set off a raucous celebration on the visiting sideline.
“It feels good,” Brookland-Cayce coach Rusty Charpia said. “The rivalry is one of the best out there. We’re the same people living in the same district five miles apart. I can’t really put this into words right now. The kids worked so hard to believe that we could turn this program around. I’m just excited for them.”
Airport had dominated the series of late with most of the wins in the 12-game streak being decided by double digits.
“It’s tough,” Airport coach Kirk Burnett said. “It’s hard to beat somebody 13 times in a row. We were right there and just couldn’t punch it in. We haven’t had one with them like that in a long time. We knew they were better, but I thought we fought hard but couldn’t get a stop when we needed it. This added to the rivalry because it hadn’t been much of a game lately.”
Jackson got the Eagles (1-1) in position to pull off the come-from-behind win. After the Bearcats took the lead with 1:47 remaining, Jackson had completions of 16 and 9 yard before running for 18, 9 and 2 to set the stage for the final play. He took the snap with about 4 seconds remaining and ran into a wall at about the 2-yard line before being brought down.
“We had it overloaded and thought we could push him in but he just didn’t get in,” Burnett said. “We just have to go get better.”
It was a back-and-forth second half with Brookland-Cayce (2-0) making the biggest plays when they needed it most. Airport had taken a 30-28 lead with 4:01 remaining on Brady Nelson’s third field goal of the game, this one from 41-yards out. He also connected from 47 and 34 but missed from 38 early in the second half.
Zeke Walker, who played every snap of the game at quarterback and safety, directed the Bearcats on a 7-play, 70-yard drive for the game-winning score.
He had runs of 13 and 25 yards on the drive and threw a 30-yard touchdown to DeJon Amaker on a 4th-and-8 play. He faced a huge rush up the middle and, after one side-step, lofted the ball down the middle of the field to a wide open Amaker at the goal line.
Walker had thrown six straight incompletitions and had not completed a pass since the second series.
“My coach always talks about fighting through adversity, and we faced that several times, including on that touchdown,” Walker said. “He also says big-time players step up in big-time games and that’s what this was. I was just happy to see DeJon get into the end zone on that play. This feels great.”
Charpia said Walker was the right man to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line. The senior was 3-for-9 for 61 yards in the air and rushed for 80 yards on eight carries with two touchdowns from a yard out.
“Zeke played every snap,” Charpia said. “He made some great plays on both sides of the ball and he was as calm as he could be when we called the time out before the fourth-down play. He looked at me and said, ‘We got this coach.’ He deserves to have this.”
Burnett, who has been the winning coach in the each of the 12 previous wins in the series, said it was a breakdown on defense.
“It was a backside post and he floated it out there and we just over ran it,” Burnett said. “He threw off his back foot and it wasn’t that great of a ball, but we just missed the coverage.”
Jackson was almost Walker’s equal. He ran for 112 as yards on 18 carries and was 5-for-9 for 34 yards but he needed one more yard to complete the comeback. Backup quarterback Dylan Harrington filled in as Jackson missed time with cramps and completed 10-of-18 for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
BC – Ti Myers 3 run (Jacob Smoak kick) 4:28
BC – Zeke Walker 1 run (Smoak kick) 11:35
A – Jonathan Earl 2 pass from Dylan Harrington (Brady Nelson kick) 5:50
A – Osirus Hairston 12 pass from Harrington (Nelson kick) 3:12
BC – Walker 1 run (Smoak kick) 1:54
A – Nelson 47 FG 0:00
A – Cory Bradley 2 run (Nelson kick) 2:03
A – Nelson 34 FG 8:44
BC – Myers 7 run (Smoak kick) 7:00
A – Nelson 41 FG 4:01
BC – DeJon Amaker 30 pass from Walker (Smoak kick) 1:47