WL at MP Football Grayson Barkley TD

West Lincoln’s Grayson Barkley (center) dives into the end zone for a Rebel touchdown Friday night at Mount Pleasant.  West Lincoln came up just short in a 21-20 first-round playoff loss. 

CONCORD – The third-seeded Mount Pleasant football team will live to see another day, as the Tigers avoided upset by taking down sixth-seeded West Lincoln, 21-20, in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs Friday at Larry Honeycutt Field at Tiger Stadium.

Tigers quarterback Ryan Tyson’s passing connection to Hank Allen for a touchdown and a subsequent two-point conversion with fewer than 30 seconds left, along with Keegan Moose’s interception on West Lincoln’s last-gasp drive, moved Mount Pleasant on to the second round.

For the first three quarters Friday night, the name of the game was defense, as the score heading into the fourth quarter was 6-6.

But it was also in the fourth quarter that both offenses came alive, as the first play of the period was a touchdown run by Rebels running back Grayson Barkley.

The Tigers would march down the field seemingly with ease and take a 13-12 lead, and suddenly, what was an offensive stalemate became a shootout.

The Tigers fought back after the Rebels took a 20-13 lead with 1 minute, 12 seconds remaining.

With his team facing elimination after an undefeated regular season, Tyson led his team down the field once more to produce the winning points.

“Both defenses played exceptionally well but were both gassed,” Tigers coach Mike Johns said. “But as (West Lincoln) wore down, our offensive skill guys did a heck of a job, and our offensive line gave (Tyson) enough time to make plays.”

RECORDS

Mount Pleasant 8-0 overall, 5-0 Rocky River 2A/3A Conference; West Lincoln 5-3, 4-2 South Fork 2A

THE PLAY OF THE GAME

Tonight, the play of the game was two plays: the final touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion. Both plays had the same result: a pass from Tyson to Allen in the middle of the end zone.

On the touchdown, the Tigers used different motions at the line of scrimmage to throw the defense off, leaving the middle of the field wide open for Allen to sneak through.

Tyson found his receiver for the score with 26.1 seconds left. And with the game fully dependent on the result of the two-pointer, Tyson looked Allen’s way again.

This time, Tyson channeled his inner Tim Tebow, taking the snap from the shotgun, running up to the line of scrimmage, and jumping in the air to throw the pass, finding Allen once again in the same spot.

PRIMETIME PERFORMERS

The Rebels used an extremely run-heavy offense, as 297 of their 301 yards came on the ground. The leader in that category was Hunter Leonhardt, who finished with 142 yards on 22 carries.

Quarterback Mason Huitt also did well running the ball, as his elusiveness caught the Tiger defense slipping on a few crucial third- and fourth-down plays. He totaled 117 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

The Rebels’ defensive scheme was different from most high school systems, as they opted to run a more pro-style 3-4 defense. This caused matchup issues for the Tiger offensive line with guessing which of the Rebels’ linebackers was rushing. This caused Tyson to see quite a bit of pressure, especially early on.

The timing of West Lincoln’s final touchdown actually worked in Mount Pleasant’s favor to a certain degree. The Rebels could have run another play or two to try to run the clock or cause the Tigers to burn timeouts. Johns said he did not tell his team to let West Lincoln score on purpose but was nonetheless thankful to still have two timeouts when his team got the ball back.

Forgoing the potential game-tying extra point at the end of a game to instead go for two is about as gutsy a call as there is in football, but the Tigers did it anyway. This is playoff football at its finest.  (Published April 19, 2021)

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