CARY — An attempt to ice the kicker backfired for Panther Creek in its Southwest Wake Athletic Conference showdown with Middle Creek.
Middle Creek’s Michael Rubino was set for a 31-yard field goal attempt for the win with 1.8 seconds remaining, and appeared to have missed, however, Panther Creek had called a timeout just before the snap.
The field had to be cleared, and when Rubino tried again, it was good.
News & Observer No. 6 Middle Creek won 24-21, spoiling No. 4 Panther Creek’s homecoming.
Panther Creek (5-2, 2-1) had rallied from down 20 to up one, but on its final drive, a punt that was partially blocked landed near the Catamounts’ own 40. Middle Creek muffed it, booting it forward before falling on it.
The Mustangs (5-2, 3-0) started their winning drive at the Panther Creek 32 with 2 minutes and 30 seconds left.
Five runs by Josh Drake and a completion to Jay Schuller later, Middle Creek put the ball on the 15-yard line for Rubino’s final attempts.
In a game that will have SWAC championship implications, both teams seemed comfortable rolling the dice.
Middle Creek’s first three kickoffs were onside attempts. Panther Creek recovered the first to start the game, Middle Creek recovered the one following its first touchdown and then Panther Creek almost ran back the third try.
A inadvertent whistle blew the Panther Creek play dead at the 20-yard line, though the player had advanced to the 8.
In the first half, there were two faked punts (Middle Creek’s pass failed, Panther Creek’s run picked up the first down), three onside kicks and one fourth-down try that almost resulted in a fumble return for touchdown, but King Kiaku was tripped up by a teammate.
Middle Creek led 20-0 on two early Rubino field goals (37, 27), a 3-yard touchdown pass from Brant Grisel to Drake and a 1-yard touchdown run from Rasheem Eaton.
Panther Creek was stagnant until the defense intercepted Grisel on back-to-back drives thanks to Terrance Lasater and Justin Byers.
The Catamounts scored 14 points off the two turnovers, ending in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Brendan Magner to Javontay Rhoades and then a 23-yard pass from Magner to Ross Moreau.
Panther Creek’s Matt Powell blocked a Rubino 28-yard attempt that would have given the Mustangs a more comfortable lead. Instead, Panther Creek was within striking distance, down 20-14.
Magner found Rhoades, who broke a few tackles and dragged two defenders into the end zone, on a 47-yard touchdown pass that took the lead with 5:02 left.
Middle Creek went three-and-out, punted, then forced Panther Creek to go three-and-out while using just two timeouts.
The final Middle Creek timeout set up Rubino’s first game-winning try, and one from the opposite sideline gave him the mulligan he needed.
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