ROLAND, Okla. -- Sallisaw Central football coach Jeremy Thompson admits he's seen a few Hail Marys go in his favor over the years.
But he wasn't sure if he'd ever been involved in a game quite like Friday's 8-7 win over Roland -- a seat-of-your-pants victory that was only possible with the help of two blocked kicks, a late first-half blocked punt that set the Tigers up at the Roland 49 and a blocked field goal on the final play of the game.
The unbeaten Tigers (3-0) scored on the final play of the first half and then held their breath as the Rangers moved from their own 27 to the Central 25 with 2.7 left with the aid of two pass interference penalties and a personal foul against the Tigers.
But a potential 42-yard game-winning field goal by Logan Lorenz never stood a chance as the Tigers broke through to block the kick.
"One play, at any point and time can make a difference in a football game," Thompson said. "That one play could have made this game go either way."
The Rangers, who started the game with a methodical 15-play scoring march that consumed all but 1:23 of the first quarter, took advantage of three Central penalties, including a pair of pass interference calls, to flip the field.
But the run-orientated Rangers stubbed their toe prior to Ashton Peters' six-yard run to the 25 by jumping offsides. Out of timeouts and with the clock running, Roland quarterback Logan Thomas sprinted to the line of scrimmage and managed to spike the ball with 2.7.
With time for one final play, the Rangers opted to bring on Lorenz.
"We kept fighting and we kept fighting and fought through some adversity at times," Thompson said. "We came in and blocked the kick at the end."
Roland (1-2) took a 7-0 lead on Peters' four-yard TD run to cap the team's opening drive.
But Roland, despite dominating the time of possession in the first half, left a little too much time on the clock for the Tigers quarterback Joseph Lee when Thomas' punt from midfield was blocked, giving Central possession at the Roland 49. Three plays later, Central sprinted to its locker room up 8-7.
With time for one final play, Roland dropped eight, and Lee, stepping up in a clean pocket, fired a perfect strike to Cade Tucker who, despite being flanked by two defenders, caught the ball in the middle of the field about a foot from the end zone and scored to cut the lead to 7-6.
Still somewhat frazzled by the sudden turn of events, Lee darted into the left side of the end zone, untouched, to account for the winning score.
Lee was far from perfect, completing just 6-of-17 passes for 85 yards and an interception. But he had some key second half conversions, including scrambling for 13 yards on third-and-13 from his own 35 that helped chew up 6:29 off the clock during a 14-play drive that helped flip the field.
"I know they were really keying on him; they stacked the box," Thompson said. "We made some big third-down catches, too. Cade Tucker came through when we had to."
Tucker caught four passes for 77 yards, including the aforementioned Hail Mary.
"Believe it or not, we've won a few like that at Central," Thompson said. "When you're on the road, and coming into somebody else's house, and playing a county game, anything can happen.
The Rangers, who failed to capitalize on an early second quarter fumble near midfield, already up 7-0, were led by Dalton Crossno's 81-yard effort on 21 attempts. He set up the team's lone score with a 27-yard scamper on the first drive.
Peters finished with 68 yards on 20 carries. In all, Roland rushed for 164 yards on 46 attempts, with Thomas completing 1-of-7 passes for six yards.
Central finished with 98 yards rushing on 30 attempts, and 183 total yards on 48 plays.