The odds were stacked against McIntosh even before football season started. Over the summer, a number of players bailed on the team in search of greener pastures. Battling in one of the state’s toughest regions, they shook off three-straight heartbreaking losses and the season-ending injury of their star running back and that still couldn’t keep the Chiefs (6-5) from their second state playoff berth. So why be scared by a road playoff game against the number three team in AAAAA? They went punch for punch early with 12-0 Stockbridge, giving the state title contender everything they could handle for a half before the Tigers pulled away for a 40-7 win.
On a chilly Friday night, the Chiefs came out with ice in their veins. Against a Tiger defense spearheaded by defensive lineman Brenton Cox, an AJC Super 12 player and Ohio State commit, McIntosh dominated on the opening drive, converting four times on third down and once on fourth down on an 80-yard, 8-minute possession. The supremely athletic Dane Kinamon frustrated the Tigers all night with his ability to escape the pocket and buy time anytime he was under duress. Facing their first test on 3rd and 6, Kinamon hit Ryan Cate in the flat for 15 yards. On 3rd and 5, he scrambled for six. Ahmad Ragland pounded through for four yards on 3rd and 3. Crossing over midfield, Kinamon scrambled for 11 yards on 3rd and 8. Even their first failed conversion attempt didn’t stop them. Going for it on 4th and 4, Kinamon hit an open Trey Williams over the middle for 12 yards. The pair connected again, Kinamon rolling out and finding Williams for a 10-yard touchdown. William Mason added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The defense brought the thunder on their first turn. On an option pitch around the right end, Burton Hahn squared up the runner and put his helmet right on the ball, sending the ball flying up in the air where Ryan Sanders pounced on it.
Starting inside the red zone, the Chiefs had a chance to build up a shocking early lead, but their conversion magic dried up as Stockbridge turned them away and forced a turnover on downs.
Heading into the second quarter, the Tigers were backed up by a big Alec Sterne sack, but they turned to their highly-touted star. Gabriel McKenzie found Marquez Ezzard, a Florida State commit, on a simple crossing route, and he spun back to the outside and found his way to the sideline where he turned on the jets and burned the defense for a 74-yard touchdown and a 7-7 tie.
McIntosh’s offense struggled to regain their footing, punting the ball away on two straight three and outs. Stockbridge handed the ball back to them when a back falling into the pile tried to pitch it backwards and Ethan Ange snatched it out of the air, but they could not take advantage.
The Tigers took their first lead of the night on a 41-yard BJ Riley scamper and quickly added to it. On the ensuing kickoff, the officials missed a facemask against the return man, who lost the ball. Ezzard made them pay with a spectacular diving catch in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
McIntosh followed with one of their best drives of the night. Kinamon and Cate hooked up for a pair of first downs to move past midfield, but the clock was working against them. Kinamon scrambled for 24 yards into the red zone, but the buzzer sounded to send them into halftime.
Stockbridge’s offense picked up where it left off after the break, striking twice in the first four minutes of the second half. First came a 65-yard bomb from McKenzie to Jordan Brown. Second came on an 80-yard Ezzard score off an screen where the officials threw a flag for a holding call, then waived it off to allow the touchdown.
Trying to get back into the game, the Chiefs pieced together another good possession. Kinamon converted a 3rd and 10 with a 15-yard pass to Williams. He moved the chains again with his feet, and Ragland did the same as they pushed into Tiger territory. They stalled out facing a 4th and 13. Kinamon hit Cate, but he was stopped short of the sticks.
Stockbridge added more cushion, Ezzard catching another screen in the backfield and racing 55 yards for his fourth touchdown of the night and a 40-7 lead.
The Chiefs had one more good shot to get back on the board. The Tigers muffed a punt that Williams pounced on. He likely could have run it in for a touchdown, but high school rules don’t allow the advancement of a muff punt. Taking over inside the 40, Kinamon hit Andrew Villiger for 12 yards, and Cate ran for 18, but they stalled out on the 10, ending their hardscrabble season.
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