Trailing Seneca 38-33 on the road, that is all the time the Griffins had left in their season.
The Bobcats had just scored to retake the lead in what had been a back-and-forth, seesaw slugfest in round two of the Class 3A state playoffs. The Bobcats had, in fact, engineered a minor miracle of their own, converting a third-and-15 into a first-and-goal to set up the go-ahead score.
But they left the door open just enough to let hope trickle in for the Griffins.
Damien Bell returned the ensuing kick to the Fairfield Central 38, and calmly, coolly, the Griffin offense went to work – as if they had all the time in the world. A pass to Dana Macklin here, a NahJawan McKinstry scramble for a first down there, and suddenly, the Griffins were in striking distance at the Seneca 21. A long run by Bell set them up at the Seneca 6-yard line with 50 seconds left in the game, and, moments later, McKinstry appeared to have sealed the deal. The premature touchdown call by one official was overruled, however, and the Griffins were looking at what could be their last snap of the season – fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line with 20 seconds remaining.
McKinstry stuck the ball into the belly of Jimmy Walker, who had pounded out the ugly yards all night against a meaty Bobcat defense. Walker took a step to the right, cut left, lowered his shoulder pads and hammered into the end zone.
McKinstry’s 2-point conversion would put the Griffins up 41-38 and left the Bobcats with only 16.2 seconds with which to conjure up a much more impressive miracle.
Although the ‘Cats would try a little last second razzle-dazzle, they could not make the end zone before time expired.
Much as they had done last week at Greer, the Griffins showed little regard for the Bobcats’ 9-2 record and second-place finish in Region I, taking their opening possession 73 yards in less than three minutes. The drive was capped by a 4-yard touchdown run by Walker, but McKinstry’s PAT veered wide left, giving the Griffins a 6-0 lead.
Then began a series of improbable kick returns by the Bobcats, all of which shortened the field for them dramatically, and the first of which was a remarkable 94-yard touchdown return by Marquis Arnold. As quickly as the Griffins had scored, the Bobcats had answered even more so, and their PAT was true, putting them up 7-6.
The Griffins’ next drive, which began on their own 35, culminated in another 4-yard touchdown run, this time by Damien Bell. The score was set up by a sensational grab by Ross Sparks of a 37-yard McKinstry pass, which spotted the ball at the Seneca 8-yard line.
The tone had been set, and it was clear that these two teams would trade licks for as long as it took until someone missed. At halftime, the Bobcats led 21-20 – the early PAT miss the only difference.
Seneca extended their lead late in the third on a 28-yard field goal by Angelo Menin to go up 24-20. The Griffins regrouped and drove their next possession from their own 31 to the Seneca 6-yard line, with a stunning one-handed catch by a double-covered Randall Adams setting up what looked to be a certain Griffin score. That was not to be, however, as a fumble into the end zone was recovered by Seneca. Although they were not able to turn the error into points, the Bobcats, for the moment, had dodged a bullet.
The Breakthrough moment the Griffins were looking for would have to wait. Finally, it came; and at a spooky moment in the fourth quarter.
Still leading 24-20, the ‘Cats were looking at a fourth-and-14 from their own 15. The Griffins brought pressure to the Seneca punter and Mitchell Crosby blocked the effort. The ball was recovered by Sparks at the Bobcat 2-yard line just as the scoreboard clock showed 11:11 left in the ball game on the chilly, moonlit night of Nov. 11. McKinstry completed the eerie magic spell with a 2-yard run and the PAT, putting the Griffins back out in front for the first time since late in the first quarter, 27-24.
The Bobcats answered with magic of their own, turning a third-and-15 desperation pass from the Griffin 28 into a first-and-goal from the Griffin 5. Robinson, the 2,000+ yard running back, did the rest, and the ‘Cats were back on top, 31-27.
Fairfield Central would retake the lead, however briefly, on a 3-yard run by Bell. The PAT was blocked, but the Griffins were up 33-31.
The dramatic finish was set up by another third-and-15 conversion into gold, this time a 60-yard catch and run by Stephen Partlow from quarterback Trey Earle.
The Bobcats end their season at 9-3, while the Griffins move on at 8-4 and will travel to South Pointe next Friday for round three.
FCHS—Walker 2 run. Kick failed. (9:20)
SHS—Marquis Arnold 94 run. Angelo Menin kick. (9:04)
FCHS—Damien Bell 4 run. NahJawan McKinstry kick. (6:13)
SHS—Chris Robinson 1 run. Menin kick. (4:46)
FCHS—McKinstry 26 run. McKinstry kick. (1:25)
SHS—Robinson 1 run. Menin kick (0:1.9)
SHS—Menin 28 FG. (2:56)
McKinstry 2 run. McKinstry kick. (11:05)
SHS—Robinson 5 run. Menin kick. (7:13)
FCHS—Bell 3 run. Kick blocked. (4:10)
SHS—Stephen Partlow 60 pas from Trey Earle. Menin kick. (2:40)
FCHS—Walker 1 run. McKinstry 2-run. (:16.2)
Class 3A State Playoff Scores
South Pointe-62 Greenville-20
Daniel-28 Nation Ford-0
York-28 Wade Hampton-21
Cane Bay-28 Marlboro County-14
A.C. Flora-36 Socastee-20
Myrtle Beach-35 Airport-3
FCHS @ South Pointe
York @ Daniel
Cane Bay @ A.C. Flora
Bluffton vs. Myrtle Beach