Brookland-Cayce might want to grab the moniker of the “Cardiac Cats” after the past two weeks. Trailing Batesburg-Leesville by 15 points in the second half, the Bearcats rallied for a 44-37 victory against the Panthers on Friday night at The Cage.
DeJon Amaker hauled in a pass from Zeke Walker with 23 seconds remaining to cap a furious fourth-quarter comeback.
Last week, Brookland-Cayce stopped Airport on the 1-yard line as time expired to hang on for the win by five points to break a 12-game losing streak to their rivals. The Bearcats (3-0) are off to their best start since winning six in a row to start the 2004 season.
“I guess you could say the sun is shining on the Bearcats right now,” Brookland-Cayce coach Rusty Charpia said. “We never thought we were out of it, and that is a testament to the fight in these kids. I don’t know what to say.”
Batesburg-Leesville (1-1) held a 21-7 halftime lead and it was 29-14 with a little less than 16 minutes to play when the B-C comeback started.
“I went in (at half) and chewed them out a little bit,” Charpia said. “It’s hard for me to stay negative, so after I chewed them out for five minutes, I regrouped and told them how we were going to win it. We needed to make them turn it over, and we felt like we were in better shape and we felt it would come down to the end. We caught a touchdown to win it. Whoever had the ball last was probably going to win and that’s what happened.”
Bernard McCall, who finished with five catches for 145 yards, got things going when he scored his second touchdown of the night on a 36-yard strike from Walker. After forcing a Panthers punt, Walker lunged in from a yard out to tie the game at 29 with 8:34 remaining. Walker completed a 29-yard pass to McCall on a fake punt from midfield to keep the drive alive.
On the ensuing kickoff, Batesburg-Leesville put the ball on the turf and A.J. Brown scooped it up and ran it in for score to give the Bearcats their first lead since it was 7-0 after the first drive.
“That is the difference in the game,” Charpia said. “We tried to kick it away from (Terrance Wilson) but he gets it anyway and he runs around and the ball pops out and Brown picks it up and runs for a touchdown,” Charpia said. “Huge difference-maker.”
The momentum did swing back toward the Panthers, though. Rickie Smith, who had 118 yards on 26 carries, bulled his way in for the score from three yards out to tie the game at 37 with 3:51 remaining.
“Our offense played well enough to win, but our defense stunk it up,” Batesburg-Leesville coach Jerry Brown said.
That set the stage for the dramatic final drive. Brookland-Cayce took over on its 21-yard line and got big plays from Walker to get to the game-winner. He first threw for 20 yards to Cam Brown to move the ball to the 40-yard line. Two plays later, he scrambled for 17 yards to move the ball to the Panthers’ 38-yard line.
On a fourth-and-3 from the 31-yard line, Batesburg-Leesville jumped offside to give the Bearcats a first down.
Those types of plays frustrated Brown.
“We aren’t very disciplined right now,” he said. “My hat’s off the Brookland-Cayce. I think they’re a good football team. It was a good football game, and you got to see one good football team in Brookland-Cayce.”
Walker took the next snap, split two defenders in the backfield and ran back to about his 45-yard line before making the desperation throw to the end zone.
“I just ran around in circles sort of, kept my eyes open and saw DeJon downfield and threw it up,” said Walker, who finished 12-of-18 for 241 yards with two touchdowns passing and two rushing. “He made a great play. We had to fight through some adversity, but we found a way.”
Amaker was in the end zone and had to fight through two defenders to come down with the ball.
“Amaker and McCall, our two wide outs, are very good athletes,” Charpia said. “I keep telling them they will win games for us. We have a pretty good running game going. but every now and then we will chunk it to them and all they have to do is make the play and they did. It wasn’t pretty but he came down with it.”
Amaker felt that play was the best chance for the Bearcats to win the game in regulation.
“I just wanted the ball,” he said. “I saw Zeke scrambling around and when he threw it up, I knew I had to go get it.”
BC – Bernard McCall 10 run (Jacob Smoak kick) 9:09
BL – Terrance Wilson 25 pass from Jac Chandler (Alex Caughman kick) 3:56
BL – Chandler 2 run (Caughman kick) 10:13
BL – Chandler 1 run (Caughman kick) 1:48
BC – Zeke Walker 7 run (Smoak kick) 7:16
BL – Wilson 29 pass from Chandler (Chandler run) 3:50
BC – McCall 36 pass from Walker (Jordan Henderson run) 0:09
BC – Walker 1 run (Smoak kick) 8:34
BC – A.J. Brown 25 yard fumble return (Ti Myers run) 8:20
BL – Rickie Smith 3 run (Chandler run) 3:51
BC – DeJon Amaker 26 pass from Walker (Smoak kick) 0:23