Orange and Corinth Holders played 48 minutes of football Friday night in the second round of the Class 3AA playoffs, but the game turned on a startling final minute of the first half.
Leading 14-7 and bottled up at its 20-yard line, Orange scored 14 points in the final 50 seconds of the half and went on to post a 42-13 victory.
It was a shocking turn of events.
Corinth Holders was driving for what it hoped would be a tying touchdown. Facing a 4th-and-1 at the Orange 23, the Pirates’ turned to star running back Howard Watson, and he cracked through the line for more than enough yardage for a first down – then the ball popped loose and Orange recovered.
With a first down at the 6, Orange ran the ball twice and had moved out to the 20. With a little breathing room, Orange quarterback Garrett Cloer dropped back and hit D’Angelo Compton for an 80 yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 47.8 seconds left in the half.
The Panthers squibbed the kickoff and it deflected off one of the Corinth Holders’ players and was recovered by Orange at the Pirates’ 39. It wasn’t intended to be an onside kick but worked just like one.
On second down, Cloer found Bryse Wilson for a 39-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left in the half.
Just like that, it was 28-7, and the wind was taken out of the Pirates’ sails.
“We got a 14-7 lead and had to work hard for those first 14,” Orange coach Pat Moser said. “I thought (Corinth Holders) had a good team and a lot of speed. They were a scary team.
“But we were able to hit a long pass to Compton with about 50 seconds to go. We wanted to squib kick, and I think the ball kind of bounced off one of their kids and we got it. And we hit another one. We scored 14 points in 50 seconds, and that was kind of hard for them to overcome.
Cloer, a senior, completed 13 of 17 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns and ran in for another score. His passing was complemented by a ground game that was led by 250-pound fullback Michael Bolden (99 yards on 17 carries).
Orange (13-1) advanced to the third round while Corinth Holders’ ended season with a 9-4 record and a share of the Two River 3A Conference championship.
Against Orange, quarterback Cole Sakowski kept the Pirates in the game until the fateful final minute of the first half. Sakowski completed 11 of 17 passes for 162 yards, including a 69-yard bomb to Dymon Walker for the Pirates’ first touchdown.
But the 14-point outburst and a bruising touchdown drive to open the second half by the Panthers were simply too much for Corinth Holders to overcome.
“It really put us in a tough spot,” Corinth Holders coach Barry Honeycutt said. “A couple of big plays, a couple of turnovers. It was really about four or five plays that hurt us bad. It should have been 14-7 at halftime, and things might have gone differently.
“(Orange) did a great job. You’ve got to give them credit.”