By Wes Mayberry/For Daily Sentinel
With seven minutes left in the game on Friday (Oct. 25), the North Sand Mountain Bison trailed the Westbrook Christian Warriors, 14-12.
The home playoff game that would come with a win looked to be slipping away for the Thundering Herd, but a 25-yard field goal from kicker Derek Alonzo and some stellar defensive play late in the game sealed a 15-14 down-to-the-wire victory in Class 2A Region 7 play in Higdon.
Neither team was able to get much traction offensively in the first quarter, with NSM (7-2, 5-2) only gaining 60 yards of offense to Westbrook’ 48. However, the Bison were able to mount a nine-play drive in the latter stages of the quarter.
Following Eric George’s interception, the NSM offense took over in Warrior territory with five minutes to go in the first period. Looking to take the Warriors’ defense by surprise, NSM called a flea flicker, but receiver Ean Miles couldn’t haul in the pass from quarterback Cody McBryar. The Bison then put together a methodical drive that was capped by a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Dexx Walsh that put the hosts up by six after a failed two-point conversion with two minutes left in the opening quarter.
The Warrior offense started the second quarter with an 11-yard pass completion from Will Appleton to Stephen Blackstock on third-and-7. Appleton later completed passes of 20 and 18 yards on the drive and got his team on the scoreboard with a 2-yard touchdown run. An extra point from Chris Underwood gave the visitors a slim 7-6 advantage with just under eight minutes to go in the first half.
The Bison offense responded on the next possession with a 14-play drive spanning just more than five minutes. Highlighted by a 52-yard pass from McBryar to George, the series ended with a 1-yard McBryar touchdown run. Walsh’s rushing attempt for the 2-point conversion failed, but the Bison held the 12-7 halftime lead.
The Warriors (5-4, 4-3) needed only three plays in the second half to reclaim the lead. On third-and-eight, Appleton completed a 72-yard throw to Brien Welch that put Westbrook up 14-12 following Underwood’s extra point with 11:07 remaining in the third period.
The Warriors had the ball first in the fourth quarter, but their drive come to a halt following McBryar’s second pass interception.
The turnover gave the Bison the ball at the Westbrook 39-yard line with 10:12 left in the game. A nine-yard run from Walsh on the drive’s first play proved to be the longest play of the eight-play possession, but the excellent starting field position meant the Herd didn’t need too many yards to get into field goal range. Alonzo capped the drive with his 25-yard field goal to give NSM the 15-14 lead with 6:05 left in the game.
The Bison needed their defense to step up to preserve the win, and it did just that. Appleton completed a 32-yard pass to Noah Hunt on the first play of the ensuing Warrior possession, but the NSM defense produced two sacks later in the drive, one each from Walsh and Austin Cummins, that led to a punt.
The Warrior offense had last comeback attempt with 2:47 left in the game, but Cummins’ sack on third down and McBryar’s pass breakup on fourth down preserved the victory.
Appleton finished 11-of-25 in passing for 215 yards and touchdown. He also had 25 rushing yards and a score on six carries.
Westbrook ends its season on Friday at home against Hokes Bluff.