In a game as tight as Friday's 2A showdown between Reeltown and Clay County, each team was one mistake away from winning and losing. Fortunately for Jackie O'Neal's Rebels that mistake came courtesy of a fumbled punt by the Panthers' Shawncey Simmons with just minutes remaining in a 8-8 contest.
Taking over on the Clay County 15-yard line following the fumble with just 3:52 remaining, Reeltown played its steady game of running the football and made it pay off. Following no gain on first down, Trey McKeithen ran for five and three yards to set up a huge fourth down play from the Panther seven-yard line.
With no kicking game to speak of, Reeltown instead turned to McKeithen again as he gained two yards for the first down and goal with just under two minutes left. On the next play Ki-Shawn Powell squirmed in from five yards out for the touchdown. Milton Chambliss added the two-point conversion to put the finishing touches on the Reeltown victory. Another fumble by Simmons on Clay County's first play from scrimmage following the touchdown allowed Reeltown to run out the clock and earn the win.
"You've got to be able to execute what you've been doing all year," O'Neal said. "That's what got you here. Going in at halftime and drawing up different plays and different blocking, that didnt' get you here...we had been outplayed, but we hung in there on the defensive side of the ball and kept them out of the endzone."
McKeithen earned MVP honors as he rushed for 33 yards, added nine tackles on defense, and punted nine times for a 32.6 yard average. Clay County standout J.D. Williams ran five times for 23 yards, but was knocked out of the game in the first quarter. That proved to be a huge blow for the Panthers offense.
McKeithen takes down Clay County's Breeman Ackels
After a back and forth defensive battle in the first half that saw the two teams combine for no points and just 108 total yards, Reeltown finally got things going on offense coming out of halftime. Taking the ball to start the second half, the Rebels ripped off runs of 11 yards from Willie McKenzie, five from Trey McKeithen and 11 from Ki-Shawn Powell to get some momentum, but it was through the air where the damage would be done.
Following another eight-yard gain by McKenzie, quarterback Milton Chambliss threw a rainbow of a pass into the end zone. Finding the football, wide receiver Dara Riley stopped his route while the Clay County defender ran by him. That allowed Riley to make a wide open grab for the touchdown. Chambliss then threw to Anthony McKeithen for the two-point conversion to make it 8-0 Reeltown.
It didn't take long for Clay County to respond as they looked for a way to replace Williams. Putting Simmons at quarterback, the Panthers ran the wildcat for a five-yard gain before Simmons would strike for a big play. Taking the shotgun snap, Simmons ran left and turned up the field.
Showing his speed, Simmons cut back across the field and danced into the end zone for a touchdown. Simmons finished off the drive with a two-point conversion to Charles Sims to tie the game at eight with plenty of time left in this 2A battle. In the end though it was a Simmons mistake that proved to be too costly for Clay County to overcome.