RALEIGH — Millbrook senior Jarrett Cervi booted a 26-yard field goal with 1:44 to play to help the Wildcats claim a wild 41-40 victory over at rival Sanderson Friday night.
The Wildcats had to sweat out one last drive by the Spartans that ended when Sanderson kicker Grayson Gregory’s 38-yard field goal attempt just missed to the left as time expired.
With the win, Millbrook (8-3, 5-2 in the Cap Eight) grabs the conference’s third playoff spot. Sanderson (6-5, 4-3) finished fourth in the league and should also be in the playoffs, which begin next week. The game was a battle between two teams who had bounce back seasons. Sanderson was 2-9 last year and Millbrook, 3-8, and both missed the playoffs.
“First of all, hats off to Sanderson. That’s a heck of football game. That’s a great football team. Our guys just made the last play,” Millbrook coach Clarence Inscore said. “It’s a testament to how good our conference is.”
Inscore’s team trailed most of the game and took the lead for the first time, 38-34, with 6:28 left in the game on a 16-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Reid Herring to senior Brian Miller. It was Miller’s third touchdown catch of the game and Herring’s fifth touchdown throw of the contest.
But Sanderson answered with an 11-yard touchdown run by Zairee Parker. After the extra point kick was blocked Sanderson led 40-38 with 5:03 left. Parker, who had to step in for injured runner Jeriko Styles (177 yards, two touchdowns), had a 60-yard run to set up the score.
Herring then led his team down field on a 12-play drive. Herring completed five passes for 60 yards and he ran for 14 more yards during the drive to set up Cervi’s field goal.
Sanderson opened the game by dominating with its running game and led 21-7 after its first three possessions. But then it turned in a match between the Spartans ground game and the Wildcats passing attack.
“It was just a back and forth ballgame, two evenly matched teams,” Inscore said. “Reid had a great game, Brian Miller caught three touchdown passes, just a great team effort.”
For Sanderson coach Ben Kolstad, it was another close loss, but another opportunity for his team to learn.
“We made too many mistakes again and Millbrook was doing a good job. They were throwing and catching the ball,” Kolstad said. “We’ll learn from this. Right there again we had an opportunity to win the game. We just didn’t pull it through. It’s a huge rivalry. That’s the big thing. Our kids wanted to beat them because it was Millbrook. It’s a good rivalry.
Kolstad also said he is looking forward to the playoffs.
“I’m really excited about next week,” he said. “We’ve been tested in the league and I think our guys are ready to compete. I can’t wait to find out who we play.”