By Jeff Haws
For the AJC
It was over. But Blake Tibbs wasn’t done.
Tibbs – already with five receiving touchdowns – returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown with 16 seconds left to give MLK a stunning 50-49 win over Stephenson.
The victory gives No. 5 MLK (10-0) the Region 2-AAAAA title. No. 4 Stephenson finished second.
When Mike Davis plunged in from 4 yards out with 29 seconds left, it looked to everyone involved that he had given the Jaguars a 49-44 win, holding off a Lions team that had roared back from deficits of 17 points late in the third quarter and 26 points in the second quarter.
But, despite Tibbs’ reputation coming into the game, despite his 166 receiving yards and five scores, the Jags rolled the dice with a straight-up kick. Tibbs caught it with his foot on the 18-yard line. Nobody touched him.
He flew up the right side of the field, splitting the defenders, making one cut and then outrunning the kicker down the sideline into the end zone, as much of the MLK bench stormed toward the field.
It was the third “ending” of the game in the final 3:32 – first with the Lions completing a wild comeback to take a 44-43 lead, then Davis’s touchdown run, followed by Tibbs. Each score looked like the winner when it happened. Only Tibbs’ held up.
Stephenson’s final drive started on its own 25-yard line, after the Jaguars had surrendered a 17-point late third-quarter lead to the Lions, who also fought back from 26 down earlier in the first half to take a 44-43 lead.
The Jaguars had thrown the ball far more than usual in this game. But, with the game on the line and time getting short, they stuck to the ground and workhorse Mike Davis.
Davis (39 carries, 212 yards, 2 TD) had 54 of the Jags’ 75 yards on the drive, including the touchdown that could have been the winner.
It would have spoiled what had been a big comeback from the Lions.
MLK trailed 43-26 when Stephenson had to punt with 3:16 left in the third quarter, and it looked like the Jaguars were ready to salt the game away. The Lions had other ideas.
They scored once to cut the lead to 43-32 at the end of the third quarter, then got good field position after a short punt and penalty to convert on fourth and 10 with a 14-yard strike from Dawson (15 of 35 for 296 yards, 6 TD, 3 INT) to Tibbs that made it 43-38 with 8:34 left.
MLK started its final drive at its own 11 with 5:12 left and quickly marched downfield. The Lions got three catches from Tibbs to move the chains, and then Joshua Stanford caught a short pass, made a man miss and went in from 59 yards out to give MLK its first lead of the game.
S 15 21 7 6 – 49
M 12 8 12 18 – 50
M – Andrecas Jackson 1 run (kick failed)
M – Blake Tibbs 20 pass from Jonquel Dawson (pass failed)
S – Demarcus Sweat 38 pass from Justin Holman (kick failed)
S – Carlos Hood safety
S – Mike Davis 18 run (Wisdom Nzidee kick)
S – Holman 1 run (Nzidee kick)
S – Sweat 47 pass from Holman (Nzidee kick)
S – T.J. Moon 11 run (Nzidee kick)
M – Tibbs 5 pass from Dawson (Joshua Stanford pass from Dawson)
M – Tibbs 42 pass from Dawson (pass failed)
S – Josh Parris 33 pass from Holman (Nzidee kick)
M – Tibbs 14 pass from Dawson (pass failed)
M – Stanford 59 pass from Dawson (pass failed)
S – Davis 4 run (pass failed)
M – Tibbs 82 kickoff return (run failed)