SAND ROCK — For the third consecutive week, the Sand Rock Wildcats battled down to the wire, but for the second straight week they haven’t had a win to show for it.
After taking the lead on a 75-yard touchdown catch by Olin Pruitt and the ensuing extra point by Bryan East, Sand Rock less than five minutes away from claiming a win over visiting North Sand Mountain.
But that was more than enough time for Bison senior quarterback Landon Green to pull off some late magic of his own.With a drive that started with 2:04 left on the clock, Green marched the Bison 40 yards down the field in five plays, including a 30-yard completion to senior receiver Cade McBryar to give North Sand Mountain a first-and-goal at the Wildcat 10-yard line. Four plays later, the drive was capped with Green’s 3-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Damon Gentle with 1:01 remaining. Gentle’s 2-point conversion run was stopped short, but his second touchdown of the night was enough to give the Bison a 12-7 victory on Friday night at Sand Rock.
After Gentle’s second score of the night, the Bison defense had to hold on in the last minute. Sand Rock marched down to the Bison 30, but Justin Lee’s pass in traffic to the end zone on fourth down with 3.2 seconds to go fell incomplete.
“It’s hard,” Sand Rock coach Steven Chesnut said after the loss. ““You try to keep it from coming down to stuff like that, but we had a shot at it. We just came up a little short.
“The kids are playing their butts off. It goes back to their character. They’re still fighting. They’re not giving up. They’re playing hard. I tell them all the time I love them and I’m proud of them, no matter what the score is.”
North Sand Mountain coach Keith Kirby gave Sand Rock credit for giving the Bison a fight.
“Hat’s off to Sand Rock. They played hard and played physical. They’ve been in some close games. I’m proud of our guys for finding a way to win.
“(Green) played like a senior. He didn’t get down too much and was able to get the job done there at the end. (Gentle) come up with a couple of big ones (touchdowns) for us, and those were enough to give us the victory. We’re happy to be sitting at 2-1 (in Class 2A, Region 8) right now.”
As Kirby mentioned, Gentle came up with the game’s first big play just 42 seconds into it. He scored on a 53-yard run on just the game’s second play. His run for the 2-point conversion was short, but the Bison (3-1, 2-1) held the early advantage at 6-0.
Sand Rock (2-2, 1-2) appeared as if it would tie the game on its initial drive, marching all the way down to the Bison 14, but the defense stiffened. On fourth-and-8, a Banks Alexander pass fell incomplete to turn the ball over on downs.
From there, both punters put their legs to work, as the Bison and the Wildcats punted four times apiece in the first half. Green and Lee also threw an interception apiece in the first half, which ended with the Bison in front 6-0.
It remained that way until fourth quarter when Lee connected with Pruitt on the 75-yard touchdown toss that tied the game, and East’s extra point put the Wildcats ahead with 4:55 remaining in the game.
“Olin stepped up for us on a couple of plays,” Chesnut said. “He made a great play on the defensive end one time breaking up a deep pass and then he caught that one for the touchdown, and then the extra point was big by Bryan.”
But Green and the Bison were not going to be denied.
“You can play perfect defense for five seconds (against Green), but if you let him hang on to it for six or seven, he’s going to make something happen,” Chesnut said. “We were where we were supposed to be. It’s just he’s that kind of player. Players make plays and he made a play. He made a couple of plays down the stretch. He’s a good one.”
Green led the Bison by completing 11-of-28 pass attempts for 126 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Gentle ran for 65 yards on eight carries and a touchdown along with catching the game-winning score.
Lee completed 6-of-18 pass attempts for 135 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Alexander was 5-of-11 passing for 44 yards. Ian Clanton carried the ball 14 times for 59 yards.
Sand Rock hosts Spring Garden on Thursday night. North Sand Mountain travels to Sylvania.
› Shannon Fagan is the sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald in Centre.