GREENBRIER – With Greenbrier’s postseason lives on the line and Alma lining up for a potential game tying 22-yard field goal that would send an important 5A West conference game into overtime, the stage was set for an exciting finish.
One of the smallest players on the field at 5-foot-10, Logan King had already contributed four catches and four tackles during the course of the contest for the Panthers.
But the biggest play of the game for King, turned out to be something that he perfects each day in practice.
“We practice block coverage every day in practice so I was prepared to block it,” King said, surrounded by tons of fans and teammates. “Coach set us up real nice because he put somebody in the hole so I could get there fast and I got there.”
Alma's Dane Martin booted a kick that headed towards the goal post, prompting King to burst through the line and leap up to bat away as time expired, allowing the Panthers to withstand a spirited Airedales rally and escape with a 24-21 thrilling victory at Greenbrier Stadium.
Greenbrier’s win officially clinched a berth in the postseason for the Panthers with longtime rival Vilonia headed to town next weekend.
It was a case of irony of sorts for Alma (4-5) who beat Morrilton only a few game before in the same fashion to escape with a 23-22 win over the Devil Dogs.
Coupled with Morrilton’s 37-7 blowout win at Greenbrier back on Sept. 28, leaves three teams tied at second place.
Greenbrier, Morrilton and Alma are all 4-2 in league play with only one game remaining and all three are hoping to lock down a coveted second seed in the conference which would more than likely clinch a home game in the first round.
The third and fourth place teams from the 5A West conference would probably be dealt a first round road game at state ranked Pulaski Academy or Little Rock Christian in the opening weekend of the playoffs.
Greenbrier's Andrew Johnson connected on three touchdown passes – all to junior receiver Ryan Barnard – for scores of 19, 17 and 15 yards to spark the Panthers to a 21-14 halftime lead.
Barnard also contributed 12 tackles on defense for the Panthers (6-3).
“When they got in field goal range, I knew we had to stand up and make a big stop and we came up with a couple of big plays,” Barnard said. “They had been getting there but we kept stepping up as a defense.”
Peyton Long led Greenbrier with 139 yards on 20 carries and helped the Panthers control the ball for much of the second half.
Landon Blair would tie the game at 21-21 with a 22-yard scamper late in the third quarter for the Airedales and that score stood until midway through the fourth quarter.
After Johnson misfired on a 3rd-and-6 from inside the Alma 8 with less than three minutes to play, Cody Powell booted a 26-yard field goal to give Greenbrier a 24-21 advantage.
Alma drove quickly down the field with a couple of passes with Blair finding Grayson Bailey for 35 yards and then and Tanner Shelton for another 22 yards to the Panthers 28.
With less than eleven seconds left in regulation, Blair found Noble Skadden streaking over the middle for a 23-yard pass to the Greenbrier 3.
On the next play, Blair threw incomplete to Bailey with Panthers Chance Embry batting away the pass with a second left on the clock to set up King's heroics.
“I don’t know if I can remember the last few plays of this game,” said an emotional Greenbrier coach Randy Tribble. “We knew we could beat them but we knew it was going to take all night long. I am proud out how resilient these boys were. We never quit playing and competing. It was a huge team win. I am just glad we won't have to be playing for a playoff spot next week in what should be a great game.”
Vilonia needs a win over Greenbrier to punch their ticket to the postseason while the Panthers could remain in a deadlock for second place with a win.
A loss to Vilonia could drop Greenbrier to as low as fourth in the conference standings.