At times, neither Baptist Hill nor St. John’s looked like teams ranked in the state’s Class A top 10 polls, as each took turns making mistakes in Friday night’s clash for the Region 4-A title.
In the end, visiting Baptist Hill scored two touchdowns in the last seven minutes of the game to escape with a 28-27 win and claim a second consecutive region title.
Senior quarterback Rashad Maxwell scored on a 4-yard run with 1:50 left in the game to complete an unlikely comeback. Maxwell, a receiver on last year’s Lower State championship team, threw for more than 200 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Brown with 6:20 left in the game to begin the comeback.
“Heart of a champion, heart of a champion,” said Baptist Hill coach Marion Brown, whose team is 6-2 overall and 3-0 in 4-A. “We preach everyday about believing in ourselves, believing we can overcome all obstacles. This group just believes.”
Each team committed three turnovers and both defenses racked up sacks and tackles for loss.
St. John’s (6-3, 2-1) used a pair of safeties, a long touchdown run and a pick-six to take what seemed like a commanding 27-14 lead. But the Islanders struggled offensively for most of the night, barely finishing with more than 100 total yards in offense.
Baptist Hill lost three turnovers, including the interception return for a touchdown.
“We weren’t perfect, but we were good enough,” Brown said.
In a game that included a solid rain shower in the first half, both teams struggled to hold on to the football.
St. John’s managed a 39-yard field goal from Alex Marshilio and picked up a pair of safeties to take a 7-6 lead after Baptist Hill scored on its first possession of the game on a 24-yard pass from Maxwell to Brown.
The Islanders scored a touchdown on Tyrone Hicks’ 5-yard run with 4:54 left in the first half, taking a 13-6 lead. The Islanders, however, managed less than 60 total yards, after sacks, in the opening half.
Baptist Hill took the lead just before halftime, taking advantage of a St. John’s fumble and return to the 2-yard line. Maxwell scored on a run and added the 2-point conversion for a 14-13 halftime advantage.
St. John’s did a good job defensively for most of the contest, coming up with three fourth-down stops to end Baptist Hill threats.
The Islanders fumbled on the first play of third quarter, but the defense again came up big with a defensive hold on fourth down. On the next play after the stop, Hicks raced 74 yards for a touchdown to give the Islanders a 20-14 lead with 9:20 remaining in the third quarter. Hicks finished the game with 130 rushing yards.
Denzel Smiley returned an interception of Maxwell 54 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to push the lead to 13. The Islanders again stopped Baptist Hill on fourth down but was unable to mount a drive, leaving Maxwell with plenty of time.
A 43-yard pass to Brown pushed the Bobcats to the St. John’s 31-yard line, and five plays later, the two combined for their second score of the night.
It was after Baptist Hill started 0-2 that Brown made the decision to put Maxwell at quarterback.
“I really wanted to keep him at receiver because he’s so good out there but when we went 0-2, I had to do what was best for the team,” Brown said. “He took over the offense and has been great. He’s just a football player.”