Enloe High School came into Monday nights contest riding an eight-game winning streak, undefeated on the season. Leesville, unfazed, went on the road and knocked off the Eagles, 31-28, in what may go down as the game of the year.
Despite two fourth quarter turnovers, one that resulted in an 80-yard interception for a score, the Pride scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:23 remaining when Vinny Amendola found Derrell Gray Jr. in the corner of the end zone. Gray made an impressive over the shoulder grab, giving Amendola his second touchdown strike of the day. His first was a 30-yard pass to Noah Burnette in the third quarter.
It was Burnette, the junior wide receiver/kicker/defensive back, who sealed Enloe’s fate, picking off a Jaeden Wortham pass attempt with 47 seconds remaining.
“It’s big, knowing that they were 8-0 and the hype going on over here,” Burnette said after accounting for 11 Leesville points. “We knew that it was our time to end it (the streak). We came in here and we did what had to be done.”
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It looked like fate was on the side of the home team late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles (8-1, 4-1) turned the ball over on downs after a failed fourth down attempt in their own territory. The Pride (8-2, 4-1) decided to put the ball in the air, and Enloe’s John Wright picked off a pass that bounced off the receivers chest and took it 90-yards to the house, giving the Eagles a 28-24 lead with 2:10 remaining. Plenty of time for Amendola and his weapons to go to work.
“I knew we had some players who were capable of moving the football down the field,” Leesville head coach Chad Smothers said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I was confident.”
On the first play of the drive, Amendola found Burnette on the sideline for a 60-yard gain. Three plays later, Amendola hit Gray for the game-winning score. After Enloe took the lead, Burnette knew they had more than enough time to get down the field and score.
“Getting it 60 yards in 15 seconds, that was a big play,” Burnette said. “That helped us play our game so we didn’t have to rush it, and that helped us calm down and run the plays and get it in the endzone.”
Leesville Road jumped out to an 11-0 lead, after a field goal in the first quarter from Burnette, and a 10-yard run by David Sohn, followed by a conversion pass from Amendola to Zack Blakeman. Enloe got on the board midway through the second when Hamilton Moore broke free for a 50-yard touchdown, giving the Pride an 11-7 halftime lead.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Leesville’s Treyvon Coleman took the kick 90-yards for a score, giving Leesville its biggest lead, 17-7, of the game. But Enloe would score on consecutive drives - a 1-yard run by Moore and a 2-yard run by Christopher O’Neal - to take their first lead, 21-17, with 3:03 remaining in the third. Two plays into their ensuing drive, Amendola found Burnette in the back of the endzone, setting up the back and forth final quarter.
“We fought,” Enloe head coach Ken Blocker said. “Remember, everybody said we played nobody up until this point, which I thought was unfair to all the teams that we played and all the teams in our conference. So to be able to get into a game where we only lose by three points in the last two minutes of the game, you can’t ask for more.”
Down late in the fourth, Smothers said his team showed poise and character.
“Adversity reveals character,” Smothers said. “We were able to response and keep coming back and keep coming back.”
Leesville ends the regular season at Broughton this Friday, while the Eagles travel to Cardinal Gibbons with a chance to still share the regular season conference crown.
“We have to exercise the fact that losing isn’t something we want to get back into,” Blocker said. “We have to get back on the horse and ride this into the playoffs.”