McIntosh preaches a never-quit attitude, and it paid off Friday night, as the Chiefs rallied from an 11-point second half deficit to beat the Fayette County Tigers on the road, 21-20.
“We had a great week of preparation. Our theme this year has been preparation, brotherhood, and grit, and we saw all three of those unfold tonight,” said McIntosh coach Lee Belknap. “I am super proud of our guys they way they conducted themselves and the composure and the competitive spirit they displayed tonight.”
The renewal of the county’s oldest rivalry didn’t disappoint, as familiar foes went toe-to-toe from opening kickoff to final buzzer. In the first matchup against Fayette’s new coach, the Chiefs came away impressed.
“I want to tip my cap to Coach Nick Davis and the Fayette County Tigers. He is doing a remarkable job with them,” said Belknap. “They are a worthy opponent, and they will factor in to the postseason.”
McIntosh opened the night fast, with Malique Mackey returning the opening kickoff out near midfield. A 17-yard connection between Hayes Herzog and Dominick Cosper and a key pass interference call kept the drive going, and William Mason opened the scoring with a 28-yard field goal.
Herzog was called on to make plays through the air against Fayette, more often than usual for a run-based attack, and he responded. He completed 5 of 9 passes for 110 yards and 1 interception, along with the rushing score.
“We don’t feel like we can just line up and run it down everybody’s throat. We’ve got to keep people honest, and we’ve got to have balance,” said Belknap. “He is a cool customer. He has the exact demeanor that you want your quarterback to have.”
The defenses locked in the rest of the first half, trading stops and turnovers. Fayette safety Nick Price snared a spectacular leaping interception to end McIntosh’s second possession, and the Chiefs swiped the ball right back on a Burton Hahn fumble recovery.
The Chiefs had a simple game plan on defense, and they followed out it in a stingy effort.
“We wanted to stick to our man and trust each other to do the job we’re supposed to do,” said Hahn.
McIntosh thought they could keep the Tigers off the scoreboard for the whole half when Nathan Anderson sacked the quarterback for a big 12-yard loss. Facing 3rd and 22, JeKobe Coleman hit price over the middle for a 45-yard gain. TJ Sagoes ran for 18 yards to push inside the red zone, but the Tigers would settle for a 20-yard Owen Mikoy field goal to tie the game at 3-3.
The Chiefs made a push to regain the lead late in the half, but they missed a short field goal attempt, and the score remained 3-3 at the break.
The second half went McIntosh’s way, as the Tigers first series ended three and out, and a bad snap on the punt attempt set the Chiefs up on the 12. Fayette’s defense responded, stiffening up and getting away allowing just a 25-yard Mason field goal.
Fayette’s resiliency showed as they built on the stop. After a wide-open, sure scoring pass was dropped, Coleman bounced back the next play by finding Marc Stampley over the top for an 80-yard touchdown to take a 10-6 lead.
A Jordan Bridges sack forced the Chiefs to punt it away on their next possession and Fayette kept rolling. Adrien Richez crushed a mammoth punt to set them up on their own 20, and Ben Anderson sacked Coleman, shaking him up and forcing him to the sidelines for a play. Sophomore backup Dustin Waters made his one play count, running for 12 yards to make it a more 3rd and 14. Coleman didn’t just convert, he chewed up 80 yards in three long completions. First came a 28-yard jump ball to Stampley, then a 48-yard catch-and-run by Camron Ivey on a slant. Coleman and Stampley teamed up again on a 5-yard touchdown connection to extend their lead to 17-6 with under five minutes left in the third quarter.
Trailing by 11, the Chiefs didn’t get down. Carter Boicourt returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards inside the Tiger 10, but Bridges notched his second sack of the half, and Mason hit his third field goal of the night, this time from 30 yards, to make it 17-9.
Fayette nearly had an answer but a penalty negated a huge Deshaun Pullen play, and they punted the ball away to start the fourth quarter.
In need of a spark late, the Chiefs turned to junior Mason McPeters. The jet sweep was the play, and he chewed up more than 30 yards in three plays, twice picking up first downs. On 3rd and 9, Mackey took a sweep 15 yards down inside the 10, and Herzog punched it into the end zone form tow yards out. Fred Claridy stopped the two-point attempt in the backfield to make it a 17-15 game with under nine minutes to play.
McPeters finished the night with 58 yards rushing, 57 yards receiving, and a touchdown, all coming in the second half.
“If you saw (McPeters) get off the bus, you’d wonder if he played high school football or if he was the trainer. He weighs 135 pounds, but he has the heart of a lion,” said Belknap. “We talked in pregame to rely on your teammates but more importantly know that your teammates are relying on you, and he got the job done when we needed him the most.”
Keyed by a 42-yard pass from Coleman to Price, the Tigers stayed in front 20-15 with a 33-yard Mikoy field goal.
Coleman finished the night 10 of 19 passing for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns.
McPeters was the man again on the go-ahead drive, upping his game even further. Herzog stood tall in the pocket and found McPeters streaking up the seam. McPeters reeled in a one-handed catch and kept sprinting for a 56-yard gain. He also capped off the drive with a 1-yard run, and another failed two-point conversion attempt put the Chiefs in front 21-20 with 3:39 left in the game.
Was it the best game of McPeters career?
“It actually is, I can’t lie,” said McPeters. “It was set up by my offensive line and my quarterback throwing dimes. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Fayette strung together a strong drive with the game on the line. Coleman found Josh Thomas in the flat for a 24-yard gain, and a flag negated a long completion to Sagoes. Coleman hit Price to move just outside the red zone. A run for no gain and an incomplete pass led the Tigers to attempt a 43-yard field goal, and it fell short, sealing up a come-from-behind win for McIntosh.
The Chief win helps keep the region race bunched up with Riverdale the only 2-0 team and Fayette the only 0-2 squad, meaning all four playoff spots are in play.
“We control our own destiny,” said Hahn. “It’s exciting, and we’re ready to go.”
The region has looked wide open all year, and the homestretch should be a wild one.
“Locally we call it the little SEC. Anything can happen on any given night,” said Belknap. “Everybody’s got good players, everybody’s well-coached, and everybody knows how to compete, so it will be a fun four weeks.”