In a high intensity game that morphed into quite the offensive shootout, senior All-State quarterback Jacob Wood and Conway Christian weren't quite as efficient as they have been all season.
Fortunately, they executed big plays when it mattered most and as a result, they find themselves in the third round of the conference 2A playoffs after a hard-fought 31-28 win over Fordyce Conway Christian.
Junior tailback Wyatt Lawrence responded with one of his best games of the year – delivering on a pair of clutch runs late in the contest – to ice a win that looked to be heading the other direction a few minutes before.
Lawrence’s 71-yard touchdown run just under eight minutes to go in the contest was Conway Christian’s lone touchdown of the second half but ultimately proved to be the game winner.
“I wasn’t expecting to run that much tonight because they have such a big defensive line but the runs I did have were wide open because our offensive lines opened up some huge holes,” Lawrence said. “I took advantage of the fact that they were keying on Jacob (Wood) and I was able to break free. They hit us as hard as we hit them."
Fordyce looked to be control of the outcome only a few plays before after Quartey Shelton found the end zone from 33 yards out to give the Redbugs only their second lead of the game at 28-24.
Following Lawrence’s heroics, Fordyce (6-6) didn’t go quietly into the night as they strung together a couple of first downs to advance to the Conway Christian’s 19-yard line.
But their final opportunity for a potential winning score stalled as Eagles defensive end Jevin Callaway brought down Fordyce quarterback Jaheim Moore for an 8-yard loss on third down and then Dearius Sledge failed to secure Moore’s pass on a 4th-and-16 play from the Conway Christian 27 that was defended perfectly by Matthew Dent.
“That was the fastest team we have played all season and the were deceptively fast,” senior Brandon Shaw said. “It was pretty scary on that last defensive series when they driving down the field on us but we stepped up and made the plays when we had to. It feels amazing to be moving on in the playoffs because we have worked so hard for so long.”
Conway Christian (10-2) wasted no time tucking the game away as Lawrence trucked 63 yards to the Fordyce 29 on the Eagles first play of their next series and then runs of 13 and 16 respectively to send the Redbugs and their fans to the exits.
From there, the Eagles were easily able to run out the remaining two minutes of the game and advance to a third consecutive meeting with Mount Ida (9-2), a team that has eliminated them over the past two seasons.
With the Fordyce defense zeroing in on Wood – a couple of experienced starters fill the void in an explosive first quarter with Nick Scherrey hauling in a 50-yard TD pass and Lawrence adding a 78-yard touchdown jaunt.
Bennett Ellis also booted a 38-yard field goal to close out the opening stanza for a 17-13 Conway Christian advantage.
Both teams combined for an uncharacteristic six turnovers, four of them coming in a wild third quarter sequence in which both teams possessed the ball for less than a minute.
Fordyce opened the scoring by cashing in a Conway Christian miscue on the first play from scrimmage as two-way starter Shelton swooped in from his defensive back position, stripped Wood from behind and scampered 65 yards for a touchdown to give the Redbugs a 6-0 lead.
But the Eagles were able to build a 24-13 halftime lead, with a 48-yard TD scamper by Wood as he executed a nifty fake into traffic and sped untouched down the middle of the field for the score.
Mount Ida will present another big challenge for the Eagles on Friday night.
“We haven’t had a game like this all season so I was proud of our kids for responding the way they did,” Conway Christian head coach Justin Kramer said. “Now we get a chance to host another great team in Mount Ida who was put us out of the playoffs the last two seasons. Should be a great game.”