HUEYTOWN – Twice in the waning moments of regulation, Eufaula had what it believed were touchdowns nullified by officials and the Tigers’ hopes of staying alive in what is expected to its final year for a while at Class 6A ended with a disappointing and very upsetting overtime loss at Hueytown.
The Golden Gophers rallied from a two double-digit deficits in the third quarter and was the only team to score in overtime and they edged Eufaula, 56-49.
The biggest two of the questionable officiating calls against the Tigers came inside the final minute of regulation.
Trailing 49-46 Eufaula had driven from its own 8-yard line to the red zone of Hueytown. On first-and-goal from the 10, Hess Horne passed to the back left corner of the end zone. Rah Rah Thomas, who had a huge game with 180 receiving yards, hauled in the pass over a Hueytown defender. The Tigers were jubilant and the Golden Gophers appeared dejected with what appeared, even on replays obtained by the Tribune, to be a go-ahead score with 48 seconds remaining.
The official nearest Thomas held up his arms for a touchdown, but a few counts later, a second official came from the middle of the end zone and said Thomas was out of bounds. Unfortunately for Eufaula, the Alabama High School Athletic Association did not use instant replay for the game.
“(Thomas) never lost control of the ball and got his foot in,” Eufaula head coach Ed Rigby said. “The second official came from about 20 yards away to say it was no good. It is what it is.”
Horne passed incomplete on second down, but scrambled out of the pocket on third down and dove into the end zone. This time there was a more immediate call that Horne had stepped out of bounds inside the 2.
At that point, facing fourth down with 28 seconds remaining, had Davis Wingate boot the game-tying – 49-49 -- 19-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining.
Hueytown took the ball first in overtime and score on third down from the 8.
Eufaula, which was penalized for a false start and faced a fourth-and-goal from the 16, tried a flea-flicker that Rigby had used successfully years ago while at Elba in a playoff game, but Hueytown stopped the Tigers at the 8 to end the game.
The Tigers finished their second season at Class 6A with a 9-3 record, losing to still unbeaten Wakulla, Florida, a Dothan High team that was allowed to play one more season in 6A although it is the third-largest high school in Alabama, and the controversial loss at Hueytown. Eufaula outgained Hueytown 540-361, got 448 yards passing from Horne, standout receiving games from several players, and limited Hueytown’s all-everything running back Roydell Williams to 11 yards on 8 attempts. Williams, a 4-star back who has committed to the University of Alabama, did not play after the second quarter as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury.
Hueytown, with the aid of a roughing-the-punter penalty to keep its drive alive, scored on the game’s opening possession, going 65 yards in eight plays. There were three penalties against Eufaula on the drive. Hueytown scored when quarterback Alex Young found Antonio Mason on a 20-yard touchdown pass. Sebastian Criado-Hidalgo’s PAT made it 7-0 with 9:29 still remaining in the first quarter.
Eufaula got moving on its second series, driving as deep as the Hueytown 5 before settling on a 25-yard field goal by Davis Wingate to cut its deficit to 7-3 with 3:41 left in the period.
A Keith Bain interception and return to the EHS 35 set up the Tigers again, and five plays later Horne found Emanuel Stevenson from 10 yards out. Wingate added the PAT and with 57 seconds left I the opening quarter, Eufaula led 10-7.
Eufaula made it 17-7 with it drove 63 yards in 13 plays, capped off by a 2-yard run by Zy Tennille. Wingate added the PAT with 7:54 left in the first half.
Hueytown responded in just three plays, scoring on a short pass from Young to Antonio Mason, who sprinted 59 yards down the sideline to pay dirt. The PAT was no good, leaving Eufaula on top, 17-13, with 7:20 left in the half.
Eufaula too answered quickly, going 60 yards in five plays, the final 24 on a Horne-to-Thomas with 5:10 left in the half. Wingate’s PAT made it 24-13.
Hueytown appeared in big trouble when Eufaula appeared to have intercepted a pass near midfield, only for it to be nullified by an interference penalty. Mason eventually scored on a direct snap, 4-yard run. He also added a two-point run to close Hueytown’s deficit to 24-21 with 3:07 left in the half.
There was no more scoring until the third quarter, but Eufaula struck quick as Horne found Thomas behind the secondary for a 68-yard touchdown strike. Wingate’s PAT made it 31-21 Eufaula with 10:44 left in the third quarter.
Hueytown added a touchdown on its ensuing drive when Mason tossed an 8-yard jump pass to Mikel Hines. The kick failed again and Eufaula led 31-27 with 9:25 left in the period.
Later in the period, Eufaula drove 47 yards in six plays, scoring on Devin Fuller’s change-of-direction 6-yard run. Wingate’s PAT gave Eufaula an 11-point lead at 38-27 with 4:33 remaining in the third.
Hueytown then scored three touchdowns in less than four minutes apart to claim its largest lead.
First, the Golden Gophers used a 35-yard pass from Young to De’Andre Coleman and a two-point conversion run by Mason with 3:43 left in the quarter, and a 23-yard Mason run with 1:36 still left in the third. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Que Mayes picked off a Horne pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown and a 49-38 Hueytown led with 11:50 remaining.
Shaking off the interception, Horne connected two plays later on a 65-yard pass to Fuller for a score. The Tigers then went for two to get within a field goal. The direct snap was bobble by Fuller, who then threw left-handed to Thomas for the conversion. With 11:06 remaining, Hueytown led 49-46.
Hueytown was forced to punt on its next possession, but a Eufaula player was hit by the short kick and the Golden Gophers recovered at the EHS 33.
Eufaula appeared headed in for a possible insurance score when Bain picked off his second pass at the 2-yard line, returning it to the 6.
Eufaula began its final drive of regulation with 5:11 remaining. Later in the possession, the Tigers converted a fourth-and-one with Horne’s 2-yard run to the Hueytown 5. After a false start moved Eufaula back to the 10, Horne completed what many believed was the go-ahead touchdown to Thomas. After that was nullified and Horne was eventually called out of bounds inside the 2, Wingate booted his short, game-tying field goal with 28 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime. It marked Eufaula’s first overtime since beating B.T. Washington 29-22 at Tuskegee on Sept. 8, 2017.
A third-and-eight pass from Young to Coleman was good for the TD. Criado-Hidalgo’s PAT made it 56-49.
Eufaula never got closer than the Hueytown 8 yard in in four plays and the Golden Gophers (11-1) advanced to the quarterfinals of the 6A playoffs next week at home as they welcome Opelika (10-1) to town.
“There were a lot of things we could have capitalized on,” Rigby said. “It wasn’t from a lack of effort. The kids played their guts out. They laid it on the line. We were one of the best teams in 6A.We were a team nobody wanted to face. Moving forward, that’s what we will continue to be.”
Defensively, Luke Bush led the Tigers with 11 tackles, followed by Brooks Weeks with eight, Curion Anderson six, Bain with five along with the two interceptions, and Brennan Ford and Seralfonso Mitchell five each.
Eufaula expects to hear from the AHSAA either the last week of November or the first week of December that it will be moved back to Class 5A for the next two seasons. The only reason it was forced to play at 6A the last two seasons was a former administrator’s clerical error that counted virtual academy students against the Eufaula High campus.
“The beauty is how we answered the bell as the underdog against 6A teams that were three and four times our size,” Rigby said. “But the kids answered the bell every Friday. That’s what it’s all about.”
- - -
Score by periods
Eufaula 10 14 14 11 0 – 49
Hueytown 3 18 21 7 7 -- 56
HUEYTOWN – Mayes 20 pass from Young (Criado-Hidalgo kick), 9:29
EUFAULA – Wingate 25 field goal. 3:41
EUFAULA – Stevenson 10 pass from Horne (Wingate kick), :57
EUFAULA – Tennille 2 run (Wingate kick), 7:54
HUEYTOWN – Mason 59 pass from Young (kick fail), 7:20
EUFAULA – Thomas 24 pass from Horne (Wingate kick), 5:10
HUEYTOWN – Mason 4 run (Mason run), 3:07
EUFAULA – Thomas 68 pass from Horne (Wingate kick), 10:44
HUEYTOWN – Hines 8 pass from Mason (kick fail), 9:25
EUFAULA – Fuller 6 run (Wingate kick), 4:33
HUEYTOWN – Coleman 35 pass from Young (Mason run), 3:43
HUEYTOWN – Mason 23 run (Criado-Hidalgo kick), 1:36
HUEYTOWN – Hayes 29 interception return (Criado-Hidalgo kick), 11:50
EUFAULA – Fuller 65 pass from Horne (Thomas pass from Fuller), 11:06
EUFAULA – Wingate 19 field goal, :28
HUEYTOWN – Coleman 8 pass from Young (Criado-Hidalgo kick)
First Downs 21 17
Rushes-Yards 37-92 28-83
Passes 27-42-1 16-33-2
Passing Yards 448 278
Total Yards 540 361
Punts Avg. 2-28.0 4-21.5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties 11-101 11-94
Time of Possession 26:30 21:30
EUFAULA –Horne 10-26, Tennille 14-23, Fuller 9-20, Lewis 2-16, Townsend 2-7. HUEYTOWN – Mason 11-44, Young 4-17, Williams 8-11, Carpenter 5-11.
EUFAULA –Horne 27-42-1-448. HUEYTOWN – Young 15-31-2-270, Mason 1-1-0-8.
EUFAULA –Thomas 8-180, Fuller 6-119, Townsend 6-71, Tennille 2-49, Stevenson 5-29. HUEYTOWN – Coleman 4-95, Ivory 6-91, Mason 3-63, Mayes 2-21, Hines 1-8.