By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports
It looked like the Haughton Buccaneers would take the lead into halftime against East St. John in the second round of the Non-Select Division I playoffs at Harold E. Harlan Stadium.
After falling behind 14-0 after the first quarter and fighting back to tie it at 14-14 in the second quarter, Haughton quarterback Colin Rains’ 35-yard Hail Mary with no time left on the clock was signaled a touchdown. That would give the Bucs the lead going into the locker room.
That’s what it looked like when one referee signaled “touchdown.” After a discussion between the officials, however, the pass was ruled incomplete.
The Bucs put up a fight in the second half, but came up short and ended their season with a 35-21 loss to the Wildcats.
“I thought we were up at the half,” said Haughton head coach Jason Brotherton. “It was kind of deflating. But our guys fought to the very end.”
The beginning was a little deflating, too. On the first play from scrimmage, Haughton senior running back Tyler Rhodes went up the middle for a 25-yard gain but fumbled and the Wildcats recovered on their own 35. On ESJ’s first play, Yashua Mitchell found Cortez Fisher for a 62-yard completion to the Haughton 3-yard line and the senior quarterback ran it in on the next play.
Mitchell’s 15-yard touchdown run – and Joe Henderson’s second PAT — with two minutes left in the first quarter gave the Wildcats the 14-0 lead.
The Bucs got on the board on their first play of the second quarter with an 11-yard touchdown run from Rhodes and PAT by Carter Ebarb and tied it at 14-14 with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Rains to Rashard Douglas and Ebarb PAT.
It looked like the Wildcats would take the lead at the half when they drove to the Bucs’ 13-yard line with 58 seconds to go in the second quarter but Haughton senior Jakob Handy came up with an interception to stall the drive. The Bucs got to the Wildcats’ 35 and, with a free play after the clock sounded due to a defensive penalty, the Hail Mary That Wasn’t occurred.
Two touchdown passes from Mitchell (33 yards to Koyal Gray Jr. and 6 yards to Dkhai Joseph) gave ESJ a 27-14 lead at the end of the third quarter. Rhodes’ 1-yard run and Ebarb PAT got the Bucs within six points (27-21) with just under nine minutes to go in the game.
After recovering an ESJ fumble with 5:38 to go, Haughton went three-and-out on their next possession and the Wildcats sealed the victory on their next possession with a 41-yard scoring run by George Martin III.
“They played hard and they played well,” Brotherton said of the Wildcats. “Their guys were big up front. I’m proud of the way our kids played. They (the Wildcats) made some big catches. There were times I thought we had good coverage and they still caught them.”
Mitchell completed 13-of-24 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns to go with his two rushing TDs.
“He’s good,” Brotherton said of Mitchell. “He’s a four-year starter and he’s really talented.”
Rhodes and Rains accounted for all of Haughton’s rushing yards. Rhodes finished with 115 yards on 17 carries and Rains added 69 yards on 21 carries. Rains was 12-of-28 passing for 160 yards.
Jalen Lewis had four catches for 63 yards for Haughton, followed by Jamarion Montgomery with two receptions for 51 yards.
“To be playing a second-round playoff game at home is a big deal for us,” Brotherton said of the 27th-seeded Bucs, who finished the season 6-6.
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East St. John 35, Haughton 21
Score by quarters
ESJ | 14 | 0 | 13 | 8 | – 35
Haughton | 0 | 14 | 0 | 7 | – 21
ESJ – Yashua Mitchell 3 run (Joe Henderson kick)
ESJ – Mitchell 15 run (Henderson kick)
H – Tyler Rhodes 11 run (Carter Ebarb kick)
H – Rashard Douglas 35 pass from Colin Rains (Ebarb kick)
ESJ – Koyal Gray Jr. 33 pass from Mitchell (kick failed)
ESJ – Dkhai Joseph 6 pass from Mitchell (Henderson kick)
H – Rhodes 1 run (Ebarb kick)
ESJ – George Martin III 41 run (Joseph pass from Mitchell)
ESJ (34-215) – Martin 20-142 1 TD, Mitchell 9-48 2 TDs, Cortez Fisher 5-25.
Haughton (39-184) – Rhodes 17-115 2 TDs, Rains 21-69, Douglas 1-0.
ESJ (13-24-2-247) – Mitchell 13-24-2-247 2 TDs.
Haughton (12-28-0-160) – Rains 12-26-0-160 1TD, Jalen Lewis 0-2-0.
ESJ – Fisher 5-106, Gray Jr. 4-71 1 TD, Joseph 4-68 1 TD, Ashton Williams 1-2.
Haughton – Lewis 4-63, Jamarion Montgomery 2-51, John Ecot 2-8, Douglas 1-35 1 TD, Trent McGowen 1-3.