It was bend but don’t break for M.L. King. Until they broke.
Allatoona could only get two field goals out of drives of 14 and 13 plays in the first half, but the Buccaneers got two big touchdowns late to upset the Lions 20-19 in the Class AAAAA second round.
The final drive was the biggest one for the No. 10-ranked Bucs (11-1), who had spent most of the game moving the ball on offense but repeatedly running into a stubborn MLK Red Zone defense.
But a couple of fourth-down conversions on the previous scoring drive seemed to give Allatoona some confidence, and the Bucs trailed the No. 2-ranked Lions 19-13 when they got the ball at their own 27-yard line with 3:45 left.
When quarterback Jeremy Uzee was sacked at his own 25, though, leaving the Bucs with a third and 12, the Lions appeared to have them on the ropes.
Uzee was at his best late, however, and he hit Clarence Soleberry for 25 yards and an Allatoona first down. Four plays later, following what many of the MLK players thought was a fumble they had recovered – but the officials ruled otherwise – Soleberry broke open again.
This time, he got the behind the defense, and Uzee hit him in stride for a 38-yard touchdown with 1:37 left. The extra point put the Bucs back in front.
“We ran a comeback twice, and he made an unbelievable move on the corner,” Uzee said, of Soleberry. “He just broke away from him; it was just there.”
With the Lions’ high-powered offense, there was little doubt they had time for one more run.
MLK (11-1) started on its own 26, and it took quarterback Roland Rivers (17-of-29, 285 yards, 3 TD) just one play to get the Lions into Allatoona territory, on a 27-yard pass to Donald Clark. A late hit penalty on the Bucs moved the Lions all the way to the 32 with more than 1 minute left.
Two plays later, though, Rivers tried for it all and threw an errant pass toward the near left corner of the end zone. It fell short, and Allatoona’s Terrance Sykes intercepted it to effectively seal the win.
One point that may haunt the Lions came in the second quarter, when they had their first extra point blocked, and the second never got off the ground after a bad snap. The lost points proved valuable.
T.J. Herron had a game-high 116 yards on 24 carries for Allatoona. This is the sixth time in 10 years MLK has had a zero- or one-loss regular season and then lost in the quarterfinals or sooner.
A 3 3 7 7 – 20
M 0 12 7 0 – 19
A – Nathan Shaw 23 FG
A – Shaw 36 FG
M – Demarquis Polite-Bray 20 pass from Roland Rivers (kick blocked)
M – Rashad Oglesby 27 pass from Rivers (kick failed)
M – Donald Clark 49 pass from Rivers (Presley Bray kick)
A – Tommy Davis 14 pass from Jeremy Uzee (Shaw kick)
A – Clarence Soleberry 38 pass from Uzee (Shaw kick)