On opening night, the early stages of the showdown between McIntosh and Fayette County were dominated by turnovers and missed opportunities. The Chiefs sharpened up, rallying in the fourth quarter with 16 unanswered points in a 16-7 win in the county’s oldest rivalry game.
The night was sloppy with seven total turnovers, including a stretch of five straight drives ended in turnovers, but any victory looks the same on the final record.
“I feel like we won the ugly baby contest again, but it’s a win,” said McIntosh coach Lee Belknap.
They had to get past a tough and talented Tiger squad, a task the Chiefs know wasn’t easy.
“I’m going to tip my hat to the Fayette County Tigers. What a heck of a job they’re doing,” said Belknap. “This game could’ve gone either way. This is what high school football is all about.”
The second half was a gritty display of perseverance that the whole McIntosh program can hang their hat on.
“I’m very, very proud of this team. These kids played with heart, and I couldn’t be more proud of every single man that had on a green helmet tonight,” said Belknap. “We challenged our guys to finish the drill. Tonight, they found a way to do it.”
It was a team effort, from the top to the bottom.
“We just told each other we’ve got to keep fighting. Our defense kept playing well, and we knew our offense would get it done in the second half,” said senior defensive lineman Derek Bertke. “I don’t think we’ve ever had to fight this hard to win a game in my three years here. I just look forward to keeping it going throughout the season.”
Fayette County grabbed the early lead, driving 74 yards for a score. Quarterback Makenzie Stills started the game hot, running for eight yards and completing a trio of big passes on the opening possession. Stills hit Wade Barlow for 35 yards to convert a 3rd and 15, Daveion Nash for 22 yards, and Anthonie Powell for 21 yards down to just shy of the goal line. Corey Andrews punched it in from one yard out, and James Hawkins added the extra point for a 7-0 lead with four minutes left in the first quarter.
The defenses settled in from there, exchanging three and outs into the middle of the second quarter before the barrage of turnovers began. The first came when Daniel King forced Stills out of the pocket, and the QB tried to throw the ball away, but Dawson Riesselmann made a spectacular interception, jumping to snare the pass along the sidelines and tapping his toes inbounds.
McIntosh took over in Fayette territory, but they would give the ball back when Trent Carrington deflected a pass high in the air that Malcom Easterwood corralled and returned up the sideline. The Tigers offense took advantage of another tip, safety Robby Mustic swatting the ball, but Barlow hauling it in for a 30-yard completion.
Fayette then went deep, but Brandon McDowell tracked down the bomb for an interception inside the 10 yard line. .
Fayette got the ball right back, blasting the McIntosh ballcarrier to force a fumble. Tay Cody pounced on it on the Chief 28 yard line, but they wouldn’t’ be able to take advantage.
Mustic made a diving catch to pick off a pass and turn the Tigers away, helping send the game into halftime with Fayette ahead 7-0.
In the second half, McIntosh sophomore Bradley Ector arrived on the scene with two huge touchdown runs to put his team in the front. His vision and fluid moves could hint at big things to come.
“It was crazy. It was a surreal moment,” Ector said of exploding in his first varsity start. “My offensive line came through, and the team pulled it off.”
Ector is a player who the Chiefs think has a bright future.
“He’s going to be pretty special,” praised Belknap. “He’s working hard in the weight room. He’s taking to his coaching. He comes back everyday and keeps getting better.”
Fayette strung together an excellent drive to start the second half, but would come away empty-handed. Malek Bowe chewed up 25 yards on two runs, and Nash converted a 4th and long with a well-executed fake punt run. Stills and Nash connected for a 15-yard pickup, but a Mustic pass breakup and an incompletion on fourth down ended the drive on the edge of the red zone.
McIntosh started moving the ball with a 19-yard slant from Hunter Best to Taylor Casterline, but Fayette’s pass rush killed the drive as JaMarcus Williamson and Terase Higgins teamed up for a big sack.
The Tigers offense again marched down the field without scoring points. Stills hit Nash for a short pass, but he sliced through the defense, racing for a 40-yard gain. The possession ended with another failed fourth down conversion on the Chief 19 yard line.
McIntosh got the opening they needed at the start fourth quarter as Bertke pounced on a muffed punt to take over deep in Tiger territory. Zach Sanders, who stepped in for an injured Best, got it rolling with a 17-yard pass to Casterline. Ector took the handoff on a read option and raced for a 20-yard touchdown. Parker Romo, who crushed the ball all night on kickoffs and punts, added the extra point to tie the game with 8:49 to play.
The following series ended in a three and out that led to a punt, but a high snap sailed over the punter’s head where Brandon McDowell fell on it at the four yard line. The Tiger defense would stiffen up, holding the Chiefs out of the end zone on 4th and goal from the one yard line.
The momentum would be short-lived, as the Tigers would be flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety and a 9-7 McIntosh lead.
The Chiefs piled on from there, building up a more comfortable lead on the first play of the next series. Ector took the ball off left tackle and scorched the Tiger defense for a 47-yard touchdown run up the sidelines for a 16-7 lead with 4:19 left to play.
Fayette tried to get back in the game, but the slippery field and the dwindling clock had other plans. A 20-yard pass to Tieric Reece and a 14-yard scramble by Stills would not be enough to extend the possession deep in Chief territory, allowing the home team to take a knee and run out the clock.
Hunter Best completed 5 of 16 passes for 56 yards, with Zach Sanders completing 4 of 4 for 19 yards. Bradley Ector rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Taylor Casterline (38 yards) and Jack Dee (33 yards) each caught three passes for the Chiefs.
Makenzie Stills completed 11 of 32 passes for 216 yards and ran for 29. Malek Bowe added 29 yards on nine carries. Daveion Nash led the receivers with four catches for 79 yards, followed by Wade Barlow with two catches for 39 yards.
McIntosh plays on the road against Luella this week, while Fayette County hosts Drew.
For more photos from the game, click here.