By ROBIN FRANCIS
Special to The Messenger
For some Obion Central fans, the phrase “here we go again” may have been uttered or thought in the final moments of Friday night’s game against District 13AA foe Gibson County.
The similarities were uncanny.
It was homecoming and the Pioneers came in sporting a 36-game losing streak and hungry for a win. In 2004, Gibson County spoiled the Rebels’ homecoming and stopped a 38-game losing streak.
Enter Chance Mahan.
The Rebel defensive back picked off a Markee Brown pass with 42 seconds left and ended the Pioneers’ hope of a game-winning drive and preserved Obion Central’s 27-20 victory.
The win was also the first for the Rebels in five tries this season
“Chance Mahan made a great play,” said Rebel head coach Shawn Jackson afterward. “We’ve been waiting for him to make a big play since he came back to us. I’m just very, very pleased with how our kids played.”
Obion Central (1-4, 1-2) will host Montgomery Central Friday night at Rebel Field, while Gibson County (0-4, 0-2) will entertain West Carroll. The War Eagles are coming off an upset of Huntingdon.
Former Obion Central standout and Union City defensive coordinator Morgan Cruce is trying to turn around the fortunes of a struggling program in Dyer. Most coaches don’t put a lot of stock in moral victories, but Cruce said he’ll take this one.
“My goal going in for us was for us to win,” said Cruce. “But, most of all, I just wanted us to play four full quarters, and this was the first game all year that happened. We played to the last play. I can’t ask any more of them.”
It looked as though defense was going to be the theme of the night as the first quarter ended with a scoreless tie.
The Pioneers enjoyed their first lead of the season when Brown connected with Jake Siler for a 16-yard touchdown with 7:09 left in the second quarter.
The Rebels responded quickly, marching 65 yards in four plays as quarterback Blake Berner scampered to paydirt with 6:07 remaining in the half.
The first half ended with a 7-all tie.
Obion Central scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter — compliments of Ben Jones — and looked to take control of the game.
Jones caught a Berner pass to give the Rebels the lead and then ran for another score for a two-possession OC lead.
“Ben Jones made a good crack back block that helped us score (in the first half),” said Jackson. “It was a good game. They’ve made vast improvements with their kids in a short amount of time. I feel like we were lucky to win. Those kids over there have a lot of fight in them and good character as do our kids.”
The Pioneers didn’t fold as Brown scored on a nine-yard run with 7:57 left in the fourth quarter to pull the visitors within seven points.
But, Obion Central endured the Pioneers bid for a comeback and scored on a Berner 20-yard run with 5:23 left to go up 27-14.
Cruce’s bunch battled back and was within a touchdown when Brown scored on a 29-yard run with 3:56 left.
The Pioneers needed a stop and got one as they forced the Rebels to punt and had the ball back with 2:14 left and 90 yards away from snapping their long losing streak.
But five plays later, Mahan snatched any GC hopes of spoiling homecoming with his interception and sealed the Rebels win.
Jackson was very pleased with how his players adjusted to the Pioneers’ game plan.
“We made some adjustments at halftime, seeing how their ends were playing us,” said Jackson. “Our kids came off the ball and made some good plays. We made some plays on defense that we haven’t been making.”
The Rebels, normally a pass-first offense, used the run first and the pass to spread the defense. Berner did throw for 190 yards, but OC gained 216 yards on the ground, led by Bryce Warner’s 154 yards on 27 carries. Warner also had 78 yards receiving on the night. Blake Rudd had a good night catching Berner passes as well with 62 yards on three receptions.
Gibson County featured a two headed rushing attack of Brown and Justice Conley, both eclipsing the century mark as the Pioneers gained a season high total of 316 yards.
While both teams enjoyed good nights on the offensive front, the two squads were penalized a total of 19 time on the night with several of the flags thrown being of the personal foul variety. The game also featured eight fumbles, five by the Rebels although only one was lost.
“It’s bad habits,” said Cruce. “It’s easy for them to revert into those bad habits because they’ve had them for so long. We’re still fighting that little bit of mentality and it crept up at times tonight.”
Obion Central hopes the win against the Pioneers will turn around their season as they prepare to battle a winless Indian squad this Friday night at Rebel field in Troy.
“We have to play better football than we’ve been playing,” said Jackson. “Montgomery Central has been a bit down, but we just have to respond with a good week of preparation.”
Published in The Messenger 9.17.12