Jacksonville (5-3, 3-3) was up 20-7 at the start of the fourth quarter and was knocking on the door looking to score yet another touchdown and close the door on the Tigers when the ball was fumbled almost at the goal line.
Heflin responded by methodically moving the ball down the field, mostly on runs by senior workhorse Blake Turner.
The Tigers made it to the Eagle 10-yard line on a keeper by quarterback Brady Padgett and took a timeout to consider a fourth and four situation with 5:20 remaining in the game. As the Eagle defense poised to stop the drive short of the goal line, one Eagle was a little bit too anxious and his over exuburance resulted in an off sides penalty and a Tiger first down at the five yard line. It took the Tigers two downs for Turner to punch the ball in. The extra point by Romeo Roblero was good and the Tigers were down by just six, 20-14, with 4:08 remaining.
All the Eagles had to do was give the ball to their high powered offense, put the ball in Dominique Thomas’ hands and run out the clock. They never got that chance.
Cleburne County did a squib kick on the kickoff, and the ball was misplayed by the Eagles and Heflin recovered on the on the Eagles 29-yard line.
Trey Bolton carried the ball for four yards and then it was Turner for one. On third and five Padgett connected on a pass to the 17-yard line. The Tigers continued to grind out the yardage and keep the clock moving.
It was Padgett on a keeper to the 14 and then the Tigers converted yet another big fourth down play, moving the ball to the four yard line on a pass.
With 18 seconds remaining in the game the ball rested on the one-yard line on third down.
Despite valiant efforts by the Eagles, Turner once again punched the ball into the end zone for the touchdown and a tied score.
Jacksonville put all they could into blocking the extra point but the ball off of Roblero’s foot sailed straight and true through the uprights and the Tigers had the narrow 21-20 victory.
Jacksonville got on the scoreboard first in the first quarter on a 61-yard scamper by Thomas for six. Thomas, “Mr. Touchdown” who has 17 touchdowns to his name, carried the ball 23 times for 163 yards. The extra point by Lavontae LaCount was good and the Eagles were up by seven.
A stingy defense kept the Tigers from scoring throughout the first half. Cleburne County attempted a field goal at the end of the first half but it sailed far to the left.
The Tigers started the second half with a runback by Tuwan Walker to the Eagle 29-yard line. The Tigers moved the ball down the field until Turner scored from 11 yards out. The extra point was good tying the score.
On the next series the Eagles moved the ball on passes to Sid Thurmond and the running of Thomas. Thurmond broke one up the middle to the Tiger 23-yard line. On fourth and seven Jackson Bell hit a wide open Payton Sims for a 20-yard touchdown and the Eagles went up 14-7 on the extra point by LaCount.
Bell ended the game 11-for-14 for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
On their next series the Tigers fumbled on their own 30 yard line and the high powered Eagle offense went right to work as Bell hit Thurmond for yet another touchdown, this one for 30-yards and the Eagles quickly were up 20-7. Thurmond had four catches for 58 yards.
It was then that things went wrong for the Eagles, the fumble on the goal line and the fumble on the kickoff.
A subdued and quiet Eagle Head Coach Clint Smith remarked after the game, “Football is a funny game; sometimes it bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve never quite seen a game bounce like that. We were up 20-7 and on the one-yard line going in to make it 27-7 and the ball decided to bounce a funny way and we had a turnover and that’s part of the game.
“They drove down and they scored on us; they kicked the onsides kick and when we went to recover it it squirted out from under us and their guy got under it and you can’t describe it, its just one of those things that happened.
“Our kids played hard and they (Heflin) got the ball down to the one and got the ball in with 10 seconds remaining. What I told the kids in the locker room, and I couldn’t tell them anything to make this hurt any less; but this will test our character and work ethic.
“Heflin did a great job tonight on converting on third down. There were several times we held them to third and long and someone would make a big play for them and get a first down. They made some great plays when they had to make them. Hats off to Heflin for the way they played and the way they fought back.”
With Alexandria upsetting previously unbeaten Lincoln to put those two teams in the driver’s seat to make it to the playoffs, next weeks game for Jacksonville at Alexandria has put the Eagles in a do or die situation.
“We’re still not out of this thing,” said Smith, “bottom line is we have to beat Alexandria next week and we have to have some help to get into the playoffs.
“It’s all up to us now to get ready for Alexandria and to focus on beating Alexandria.
“It’s times like this that you find out what you’re made of. These kids are not quitters and they haven’t quit all season and they aren’t going to quit now. They will go out next Friday and give Alexandria all they can.”