November 22, 2009 12:05:00 AM
MABEN -- Shawn Stricklin overcame three first-half fumbles with a 9-yard touchdown run in the closing minute Friday night to lead the Ackerman High School football team to a 14-12 victory against East Webster in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A North Half State playoffs.
The victory helped Ackerman (13-0) earn a spot in the North Half State championship game against top-ranked West Bolivar, who defeated defending state champion Baldwyn 13-12, next week.
The senior tailback led all rushers in the game with 98 yards on 14 carries, including 61 yards on the final drive.
"Our guys just sucked it up on the last drive," Ackerman coach Adam
Dillinger said. "We moved the ball like we had all year and made the plays it took to win."
Trailing 12-6 with 8 minutes, 3 seconds remaining, the Indians marched 82 yards on 15 plays to tie the game with 46 seconds remaining.
The Indians rushed 14 times on the final drive, only going to the air on a
third-and-7 play that John Cummings converted for a 13-yard gain.
"Coach Wilson and the defensive coaches worked hard and we were well positioned tonight," East Webster coach Jimmy Carden said. "They worked their tails off, but just kind of wore down on that final drive. Playing only 14 kids all night makes it tough."
The Wolverines (7-7) responded in the final seconds, driving to the Ackerman 27 with two seconds to go. They were prepared to attempt a game-winning 43-yard field goal by Michael Graham, but a high snap prevented the kick from happening.
"I would have liked to see him have a chance at getting that ball off," Carden said. "He has the leg to kick it from 50 yards, and with the juice he had I think he would have gotten it there. Not sure if would have straight enough, but he would have gotten it there."
Ackerman started the game the same way they did in the first matchup of the season (a 31-0 victory in week three). Cummings ran the option to perfection, capping a 65 yards drive with a 7-yard run.
The Indians looked to double that lead later in the first quarter, but a fumble by Stricklin ended the drive.
Ackerman continued to let the Wolverines hang around s 12 penalties for 85 yards and two fumbles inside the 20 made the outcome stay in doubt all game.
"It was just terrible," Dillinger said about the mistakes. "Offsides, false starts, and holdings penalties just killed us. We could not finish drives and could not get into the offense flow we had all year."
Tied 6-6 at halftime, the Wolverines took their only lead two plays into the second half, as Demetrius O''Briant''s spectacular play made it 12-6.
Ledrick Patterson took the run up the home sideline for a 55-yard run, but
pitched the ball on a lateral to O''Briant, who never slowed down.
"I know what is going to be said, that Ackerman was looking ahead," Carden said. "That is nothing further from the truth. They were not looking ahead. We improved and made the plays necessary to make this a game. I just wish we could have gotten those conversions and made it 16-6, so the last drive is irrelevant."
East Webster didn''t cross midfield again until its drive.