by Rob Grubbs
The Our Lady of Mercy Bobcats hosted the Strong Rock Christian Patriots Friday night looking to get their first region win of the season. In a game that started with Strong Rock razzle dazzle and ended with a touchdown called back by a penalty, the Bobcats held on to win their homecoming game 21-16 and even their region record at 1-1.
Bobcat starting linebacker Tyler Hill showed up to work for the defense. He came out of the locker room with a sledgehammer for pregame warmups and swung heavy hits all evening.
“The sledgehammer is a team symbol for our defense,” he said. “We bring aggressive, physical play.”
Hill played the entire game with abandon from sideline to sideline, as did the rest of his defensive teammates.
Strong Rock’s head coach, Tommy Webb, is no stranger to the area, he coached for eight seasons at Fayette County High School, including a region title in 2007. On the first play from scrimmage, his Patriots completed a double pass for a 34-yard gain into Bobcat territory. After getting composed, the Bobcat defense led by Hill forced a field goal attempt that was missed.
Mercy followed that with a methodical 13-play, 80-yard drive and took the early lead, 7-0 on a 5-yard TD run by Caleb Pressley on a play that saw him break two tackles as he crossed the end zone.
The Bobcat defensive front pressured Strong Rock quarterback Demetrius Knight all game. He was constantly on the run and took some solid hits from the Bobcat defensive front of Adrain Andrews, Tim Summers, and Jalen Moore.
After the Patriots tied the game on long touchdown run in the second quarter, the Bobcats quickly returned the favor. Once again it was Pressley as he scored on a 55-yard run to give the Bobcats the lead at the half, 14-7.
On their first drive of the fourth quarter, Javon Henderson scored the final Bobcat touchdown on the evening to go up 21-10.
With less than three minutes remaining, desperation set in for the Patriots. Knight heaved a pass downfield that was tipped three times before Cameron Brooks pulled it from the air and walked into the end zone for the score. Strong Rock attempted a 2-point conversion to bring the game to within three, but the Bobcat defense stopped them short.
Now 21-16, the Bobcats seemed to only need the onside kick recovery to put the game away. After the Bobcats recovered the the onside kick, it appeared the drama had ended for the night, but after getting the ball back with 17 seconds and no time outs, Strong Rock had one more play. With the Bobcat defenders in deep prevent defense, Knight hit Jaylen Blackwell for a quick pass over the middle, and he eluded defenders for a 70-yard scamper and the apparent winning touchdown. However, a penalty nullified the score and ended the game.
For Mercy coach Jamie Aull, the range of emotion was dramatic. In a period of 17 seconds, he and the Bobcats went from believing they were going to win, thinking they had lost, and then to celebration with a ring of the victory bell.
Aull was drained by the ending, but proud of his team.
“We don’t have a lot of numbers, and we have a lot of kids that play every play. They were really tired at the end, but they showed their character and resolve,” he said. “I hated the way that play at the end went, but we withstood the adversity. I am so proud of these guys.”
For the Bobcats, Pressley finished with 153 yards on 27 carries and 2 touchdowns. Henderson completed 7 of 9 passes for 66 yards and ran for 35 yards and a score himself. The biggest winner of the night for the Bobcats was senior defensive back and Fayette Super 12 member Cameron Browning. He played a lock down corner, had an interception in the first quarter, and was the 2017 Homecoming King for Mercy.
This week, the Bobcats (2-3) travels to Fairburn to face Landmark Christian (0-5) in another region contest. With the sledgehammer defense and their ball control offense, they will look to improve their standings in Region 5A.