Photo/Zach Buckley

Story by Zach Buckley 

Before the game began we all knew it had the makings to be one to remember. It was filled with just about everything a fan wants to see in a game: touchdowns, turnovers, scoop-and-scores, a strip, hard hits, fourth down conversions, fourth down stops, blocked punt and overtime.

Sylva-Bay is not reading from the script, and that could be good going forward. Historically, Tri-County thrives in playoffs, and there is no way the Saints can beat the Rebels twice in one season, right? Wrong! Head coach Terry Underwood has his team marching towards the biggest moment in Saint history. They’re headed to the final four of the MAIS playoffs after a thrilling 27-24 win in overtime over Tri-County Academy on Friday night.

“When you get to this point of the year and in these playoffs, the key is you gotta find a way to win. you gotta dig down in your heart and soul and figure out what can I do to win. Our kids have found a way to win. They never quit. That’s what I love about it,” noted Underwood.

The first half the two teams went blow for blow. Both teams scored on their first possessions. Ty Crosby scored first with 9:22 left in the first. Exactly one minute later, the Rebels tied the game at 7-7. The Saints kept great field position throughout the first half. Keegan Tumblin blocked a Tri-County punt deep in Rebel territory.

With 4:59 left in the second quarter, Phillip Anderson made a dive for the pylon to put the Saints up 13-7. Tri-County flipped the momentum before halftime with an 18-yard touchdown run to give them a 13-14 lead at the half.

Both defenses bristled in the third quarter and kept each other scoreless. The fourth quarter was far from boring. Sylva-Bay marched into the red zone for a chance to take their second lead of the game. Instead, Crosby fumbled on the 5-yard line to give Tri-County what looked to be the momentum to put the game away.

The Rebels coughed the ball up at their own 16-yard line, and Tariq McCoy made them pay with a scoop-and-score. Anderson capped it off with a two-point conversion, giving the Saints their first lead since the first quarter, 21-14.

Tri-County needed to score fast, and went to the shotgun. The Saints would make them pay with an interception with 5:50 left in the contest. All the Saints needed was to run time off the clock to seal the victory. Instead, McCoy fumbled it back to the Rebels at the 5:05 mark. Tri-County went back to the shotgun, and after a great throw and catch by the Rebels, Ty Crosby stripped the Rebel receiver to get another chance to put the game away.

Tri-County was not ready to turn their pads in. They made the needed stop and forced the Saints to punt with less than two minutes to go. The Rebels went back to what they do best and started running the ball. Sylva-Bay would not give the easy score. It took the Rebels four tries, and with :34 left, TCA scored on fourth down to tie the game and send it to overtime.

The Saints won the toss and chose to go on defense first. Two plays into OT, the Rebels faced a third down on the one-yard line. TCA tried a fancy pass play, and big Josh Knotts made them pay with an sack back to the eight-yard line. The Rebels settled for a field goal and a 24-21 lead.

Sylva-Bay went with what they do well and that was to hand the ball to trusty Ty Crosby. Underwood said this about his star running back, “I’ve coached Ty for two years. When it’s (the game) on the line, I have no problems giving him the ball.” Crosby did just that. It took him three attempts before his offensive line paved the way to a Sylva-Bay victory.

There is a buzz in the air at Sylva-Bay. They have a chance to make school history. They will host their third playoff game in a row against another historical powerhouse, Centreville Academy Tigers. The Tigers are loaded with rich football history, but Underwood wants his Saints to focus how close they are to reaching the pinnacle.

“It’s exciting to know that your right there on the door step. It’s hard to describe. Championship games are hard to get to. You have to be good, you have to be fortunate, balls have to bounce your way sometimes. This group of kids have persevered through some ups and downs. We’re one step away with Centerville at home. I’m already juiced up right now, and we are ready for the challenge,” said Underwood.