By Riley Hicks
You’ve got 43 seconds left!
Those were the words Our Lady of Mercy quarterback Javon Henderson heard from his teammates as he grasped at his aching right shoulder, a yard away from sealing a victory in the final minute.
Henderson, a wide receiver, wasn’t supposed to play quarterback this season, but a concussion sustained by Bryson Mullins in the Bobcats’ first game of the season forced him into the lead role for Game 2.
With 35 seconds on the game clock and the ball in Henderson’s hands, he rolled right, cut inside and spun into the end zone, enduring a hit from a Bulloch Academy defender on his right shoulder to notch his fourth rushing score of the game.
The touchdown gave the Our Lady of Mercy Bobcats (1-1) a 32-20 win over the Bulloch Academy Gators (2-1) Friday night at Mercy.
The scoring for the Bobcats started early in the game. On their second offensive possession, Henderson darted to the right side for a 24-yard rushing touchdown, giving Mercy a 7-0 lead with 5:12 left in the first quarter.
The Gators’ offense didn’t come together until later in the second quarter. In Bulloch’s third possession of the game on 4th-and-7, the Gators set back to punt, only to have it blocked by Cameron Browning and then recovered by Justin Smith.
“I told you I was going to block it,” Browning said to his teammates as he jogged off the field.
Later in the second quarter, the Bobcats went up 14-0 after 11-yard touchdown run by Caleb Pressley. This was Pressley’s only touchdown of the night, but he dominated on the ground most of the game with 174 rushing yards. Pressley led a Mercy rushing attack that ran it 53 times and collected 338 yards, while the Bobcats defense limited the Gators to 37 total rush yards.
Following Pressley’s touchdown, the Gators’ next offensive possession, quarterback Don Aaron threw a 15-yard touchdown to Ty Mingle, putting Bulloch on the board to make it 14-7 with 3:57 left in the half.
Closing out the half, the Bobcats seemed to be going in for another touchdown before the half, but Pressley fumbled the ball at the Gators two-yard line with just 29 seconds left in the quarter. This was the second lost fumble of the night by Pressley, but Mercy recovered in the second half.
“The thing we’ve got to clean up is turnovers, and if we can clean up the turnovers we are building to something special,” Mercy head coach Jamie Aull said.
Like the first half for the Bobcats, the second half started strong when on Bulloch’s second possession on offense, Mercy’s Adrain Andrews recovered a fumble by Jack Nelson. This then led to Henderson scoring a 19-yard rushing touchdown followed by a missed extra point to make the score 20-7.
Another tough stand for the Mercy defense on the next drive led to another punt for the Gators, but Browning fumbled the punt, and it was recovered by the Gators. Following the recovery, Bulloch’s Lawson Anderson caught a 7-yard touchdown to make the score 20-13 after the missed extra point with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
It didn’t take long for Mercy to distance themselves again after a Henderson 2-yard touchdown scamper to the corner of the left end zone, shuffling his feet past the pylon to give Mercy a 26-13 advantage.
“It goes all to my guys. I do it for my teammates,” Henderson said.
While Henderson only passed for 39 yards against the Gators, Aull was proud of the way his wideout performed in a new position.
“He did a great job, coming in cold. He had a great week of preparation and made things work for us,” Aull said.
The Gators put one more score on the board after a 12-yard pass to Anderson, his second receiving touchdown of the night. This closed the gap to 26-20 at the time, but Henderson capped off the night with a 1-yard touchdown to virtually end the game with a 12-point win. In the final play, Browning intercepted Aaron’s throw as the clock hit triple zeroes.
“Turnovers tonight killed us,” Bulloch head coach Terence Hennessy said.
The Bobcats will have next week off and spend the bye week getting healthy, Aull said. In two weeks, Our Lady of Mercy will take on Fellowship Christian at home. Bulloch is at Westfield next week.