There were five minutes left in the fourth quarter, and Middle Creek’s football team trailed by 13 at home to arch-rival Fuquay-Varina.
But something was in the air that Sept. 2 night.
The Mustangs completed an unlikely comeback, scoring twice in the last 4:07 – and on each of their final three offensive plays – to complete a wild 48-47 double-overtime victory that neither side’s players or fans will forget for a long time.
Fuquay went for the win in the second overtime, but fullback Carlton Bridges was stopped on a two-point conversion to end the game and allow the Middle Creek players to storm the field in jubilation.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
The game took a turn for the wild in the third quarter, when, after Middle Creek’s 14-12 halftime lead, Fuquay’s Taylor Skeens and Kyle Smith each returned interceptions for touchdowns.
Down 34-21, Middle Creek quarterback David Salmon – who ended the night with four touchdowns and three interceptions – regrouped from those plays to find Jon Moore on a 10-yard touchdown with 4:07 left.
After a 3-and-out by Fuquay, Salmon engineered another drive, ending in a bubble screen that Curtis Burston scored with 59 seconds remaining.
The Mustangs missed the extra point on Moore’s touchdown, so both sides entered overtime at 34.
Middle Creek won the toss and put Fuquay on offense first.
The Bengals’ first three plays went nowhere.
On fourth down, Fuquay used a hook-and-lateral play, with Kirk Stephenson catching the ball at the 4-yard line and tossing it back to Kyle Smith, who scored.
Middle Creek needed one play to score – a Salmon 10-yard pass to Kevin Jones. The teams were tied at 41.
Middle Creek reeled off its third straight touchdown in as many plays to start the second overtime, as Devone Johnson took a 10-yard halfback draw in to score, making the score 48-41.
Again, it looked like the Bengals were done. It was fourth down, and the previous three plays had only lost a yard.
But again, Fuquay showed guts. Quarterback Evan McNeill found diving receiver Hayden Read on a fade to the corner of the end zone, and the Bengals were down by one.
Coach Ryan Habich went for the win, and the Mustangs denied Bridges at the goal line.
This game was about more than rivalry – the two teams have had at least a share of the conference title every season since 2005. So even though it was the conference opener, it still felt like a conference championship.
Though each team ended the year with matching 7-1 conference records, Middle Creek claimed the conference’s No. 1 seed in the football playoffs based on this head-to-head result.