November 15, 2009 12:25:00 AM
VERNON, Ala. -- On Friday, George Bell Stadium was packed with a crowd that generated noise that rivaled a college football game.
That crowd all but erupted after a play that many people take for granted.
Tanner High School''s Mark Adams extra-point attempt in overtime sailed low and to the right, enabling Lamar County to escape with a 28-27 victory in an Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 2A second-round playoff game.
"Brandon Merchant kicked four extra points, and that''s the difference right there," Lamar County coach Ken Adams said. "We won two games this year by one point because we are able to kick extra points."
Led by senior quarterback Michael Bradford, the Bulldogs dominated the first half.
On the opening drive, Bradford ran for 64 yards, earning several first downs with six rushes. On first-and-goal, he punched the football in for the touchdown.
"It''s either give it to our fullback, or I pull it. I then have a choice to either pitch it to our running back or keep it," Bradford said. "But most of the game their linebackers were getting in on them, so I just cut it behind them and gained a little bit of yards at a time."
After forcing the Rattlers to three-and-out, Bradford again led the offense to the goal line, passing for 19 yards and rushing for 25. Lance Bobbitt easily pushed in for the score from 2 yards out.
Tanner High coach Laron White said Lamar County''s ability to control the clock helped create his team''s first-half woes.
"They did a good job mixing it up, giving us different looks," he said. "The defense had to adjust, so we adjusted and didn''t give up. We came back in the second half and played ball.
"At halftime, I just told them to calm down. You know it is big atmosphere, big game, big time football. They just had to calm down and play football."
In the second half, junior running back Trey Cosby couldn''t be contained. On Tanner''s second drive, Cosby pushed the football up the middle for short yardage several times before finally breaking away for a 17-yard touchdown.
"They came out and made a good play," Adams said. "Tanner is a good football team. Tanner is not going to go away, they are not going to quit, and that is what good teams do: They come back."
Three drives later, Cosby rushed for 52 yards that helped set up Landon Stephens'' 12-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Smith, which evened the score at 14 with three minutes left to go in the game.
"I knew we could run the football on them, I knew it," White said. "Stopping them from scoring at the end of the half was big, I told them it was our game to win and that is what you are going to do."
Sophomore Eric "Turbo" Hudson responded, however, picking the football up from the 4-yard line and going 96 yards for the score.
"I ran my hardest, we got our blocks, and I didn''t give up," Hudson said. "We had it in us to block, all the way down field, and we did it. We had a few mess ups, but we all came back together and did it as one."
Tanner wasn''t out of it, though.
Cosby (30 rushes, 136 yards) plunged into the end zone with about one minute remaining in regulation.
Bradford (27-148), not wanting to turn the football over, kept it on the ground and rushed for 31 yards but didn''t have enough time to win it, sending the game into overtime.
Lamar County was in field-goal range twice, but opted to attempt a conversion on fourth down but turned it over on downs. Adams said he didn''t regret not trying for the field goals.
"I believe in our offense," Adams said. "I believe in Brandon kicking field goals, but I believe in our offense, too."
In overtime, each team had a chance to score from the 10 until one team. After a 9-yard pass to Marcquis Plant, Bradford forced the football in on fourth down, and Merchant''s kick (he was 4-for-4) sailed true to put 28 points on the scoreboard.
"Coach Adams called that timeout, and he told me to read it like normal cause they had all their line, tackles and guards coming straight down," Bradford said. "When I laid it in there to Lance, everybody just fell down on him, so I pulled it and just fell into the end zone."
Cosby scored on his first attempt from the 10, but Adams'' miss allowed Lamar County (12-0) to advance to face Ider (11-1) in the third round in Vernon.
Adams said he didn''t really have to tell the Bulldogs anything to get them fired up. Lamar County lost to Tanner 14-7 last year in a steady rain and muddy conditions.
"Tanner put us out last year, and our kids wanted to make the next move," he said.