HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM)- Trailing by eight points with under two minutes to play, the North Forrest eagles snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, thanks to a long touchdown, a two-point conversion, an interception and a field goal...in less than 50 seconds.
It was all but over for the North Forrest eagles, who trailed 11-3 to Quitman with just over a minute remaining. But eagles junior quarterback Jalen Haskin got one last chance.
After just barely escaping a sack, which most likely would have sealed a panther victory, Haskin let it fly to a receiver, who broke free down the sideline. The eagles receiver made the catch, and raced all the way to the endzone with :53 seconds remaining. North Forrest still needed a two-point conversion to tie the game, and they would get some help in that regard. A major penalty moved the line of scrimmage from the usual 3-yard line to the one.
The officials flagged the Quitman sideline for a sideline infraction, which meant North Forrest could run it rather than pass it. They did just that, and just like that, tied the game at 11-11. Now it was up to the defense to hold :53 seconds for overtime. They didn't.
From his own 15-yard line, Quitman panther quarterback Franklin Jones heaved a long pass over the middle, and waiting for it was eagles quarterback-now-turned-cornerback Haskin. Haskin picked off Jones' pass and returned it all the way to the panther 10 yard line. When the play finally ended, :08 seconds remained on the clock.
Enter sophomore linebacker-slash-running back and straight-on kicker Hunter Leui. Leui booted it, the kick sailed straight and true, and a after a monumental turn of events, the eagles suddenly held the lead 14-11. They needed to play defense for only 3 seconds more on the ensuing kickoff.
The panthers fielded the kick, returned it to about the eagle 40 yard line, and so began the celebration for North Forrest. Eagle players, helmets raised in the air, sprinted to midfield, while head coach Matt Caldwell, emotionally and physically drained from the come-from-behind win, barely managed to walk to midfield.
While eagles players, students and fans celebrated both in the stands and on the sidelines, panthers players and fans left the stadium in sheer heartbreak and utter disbelief after watching what had unfolded in the final seconds.
What's more the drama that unfolded in the final seconds was the complete opposite of the scoreless first half fans witnessed. North Forrest managed to sack Jones a few times, as Quitman managed to reach Haskin a few times as well.
Quitman won the turnover battle in the first half, as the eagles put the ball on the turf twice in the second quarter. In fact, it was a defensive touchdown that first started the scoring. After Haskin handed the ball off to running back Terald McNeil, Eric Ransom of Quitman got into the backfield, stripped the ball out of McNeil's hands and raced 45 yards for the touchdown.
In the final quarter, both teams added field goals, including about a 40-yard boot from panther kicker Dalton Smith, as well as a roughly 30-yarder from the eagles' final hero Leui.
In attendance for the game was Caldwell's mother-in-law, who said she only makes it to one game a season. It looks like she picked the right game to come to this year.