POTOSI – Timely defense saved the Potosi football team for a second straight week, and solidified a landmark victory in the second year of a rebuilding effort under head coach Ed Haar.
The Trojans stopped Central four times in the red zone, forced three second-half turnovers, and beat the six-time reigning district champion Rebels for the first time in eight tries on Friday night.
A touchdown sneak by quarterback Andrew Coleman and extra point by Zach Haynes late in the second quarter provided just enough offense to give Potosi a stunning 7-6 road triumph.
Potosi (3-3, 2-2) executed in a deliberate manner that mostly kept the home crowd silenced, except for the occasional audible grumbling over a number of peculiar play selections.
No call was more baffling than the Rebels’ final offensive snap, a 4th-and-13 run from their own 19-yard line that was quickly snuffed out as Josh Allen recovered a resulting fumble to seal the victory.
Fullback Tristan Murdick moved the chains moments later while pushed by a cluster of teammates, and Potosi celebrated after last defeating the Rebels 21-20 in week 7 of the 2010 season.
Central (3-3, 2-1) got a crucial tackle from lineman Derontae Martin on fourth down with less than 10 minutes remaining, and needed only two plays to cover 67 yards while after struggling mightily.
Gage Manion slashed through the right side to gain 34 yards, and Will Hopkins took a quick swing pass the next 33 to bring the Rebels within one.
Central elected to attempt a two-point conversion with 9:03 left as standout kicker Justin Bridges was unable to play due to injury, but Potosi denied the rushing attempt.
The Rebels gathered more momentum by forcing an immediate three-and-out on defense, and senior Dawson Day took an outstanding punt return all the way to the Potosi 10.
But a fumbled snap on the very next play proved disastrous for quarterback Dylan Corcoran as defensive tackle Hunter Moon recovered it under a pile.
Potosi managed to grind out four first downs on the next possession – exclusively on the ground while using its superior size up front – before all-state punter Haynes pinned the Rebels at their own 11. Day was assessed a 15-yard personal foul that also aided the drive.
Haynes made seven solo tackles to match Isaac Gaghen, and added a key interception that shifted field position during the third quarter. Murdick added six primary stops.
Corcoran was 14-of-26 passing for 139 yards for Central – connecting five times with senior receiver Jake Casey – but misfired high or long on three fourth-down attempts during the action.
Potosi never allowed the Rebels to emerge open behind the secondary on deep routes, and safety Seth Shadrick applied a two jarring hits to separate receivers from the football.
Casey intercepted Coleman on a tipped pass by Day, and returned the ball from the end zone on the game’s initial possession, as Potosi threw just three times overall.
Central marched 79 yards on 12 plays on its first opportunity, but stalled after Hopkins spun through a hit near the line of scrimmage on a screen and raced 49 yards down the left sideline.
The Rebels threatened again with 1st-and-goal from the Potosi 6 after Day made a 19-yard catch. But lineman Logan Kirby dropped a runner in the backfield, and Moon stopped Manion short on fourth down at the 3 to preserve the scoreless tie.
Potosi responded with a stellar 15-play, 97-yard drive that produced its lone points and chewed away more than seven minutes.
Ethan Brown, who netted 93 yards on eight carries, exploded through the right side and picked up 54 to enter Central territory.
Coleman drew linebacker Jeremy Jones offside on 4th-and-4 to acquire an enormous first down at the 19, and broke the plane after Brayden Isgriggs was corralled just inches from the goal line.
Central generated a 177-126 edge in total yardage during the first half, but had zero points to show for it. A fourth-down throw fell incomplete after reaching the Potosi 17 to keep the margin at 7-0.
Hopkins tallied 100 yards on four receptions. Central committed eight penalties and will travel next to Perryville with the winner earning at least a share of the MAFC White Division title.
Manion finished with 74 yards on 14 carries, along with a team-high 10 tackles in defeat. Martin equaled Evan Sidebottom with nine tackles each.
Potosi, which needed a late pick six to survive at Fredericktown last week, will host New Madrid County Central in search of a third consecutive win.