Bobcats get first win in thrilling fashion over Palmetto
By Eric Sprott
WILLIAMSTON — When Ray Ray Beaty somehow managed to break free and give Palmetto its first lead with 1:59 to play Thursday night, Jeremiah Mackey felt sick to his stomach.
With the Seneca High School football team on the brink of its first win of the season, the senior had Beaty wrapped up, only to watch him slip away and find the end zone for the fourth time on the night.
“Somebody hit me, and I just flew off,” Mackey said. “I felt like I caused us to lose the game, because I had him.
“After that, I knew I had to do something special, because I felt like if I didn’t do it, it might not get done.”
And did Mackey ever do something special in the game’s waning moments, making several key plays on the Bobcats’ ensuing drive, the score that proved to be the difference — a 1-yard touchdown dive with four seconds left to lift Seneca to a wild 44-43 victory over the Mustangs.
In a game the Bobcats (1-3) led by 13 points at 34-21 with 4:19 to play in the third quarter, it was no small feat hanging on for a win against a Palmetto (3-1) squad that found the end zone on four of its five second-half possessions.
Following Beaty’s go-ahead score, Seneca took over at its own 38-yard line, and Mackey helped avert total disaster on the second play of the drive. On a high snap that was well over quarterback Cole Bay’s outstretched arms, Mackey went up and brought the ball down before tearing off a 12-yard gain.
“I looked at it, and I had to make something happen,” Mackey said. “I wasn’t going to let it roll around and them come hit me in the backfield. I wanted to go down the field and score.”
“That could have been ballgame,” Seneca head coach Hal Capps added of the errant snap.
After Mackey’s first-down run, Bay completed four straight passes — the last of which was caught in the middle of the field at the Mustangs’ 20-yard line, causing Seneca to call its final timeout with 16 seconds to play.
The Bobcats decided to go with an unorthodox play call for the situation coming out of the timeout, as offensive coordinator Jay Abercrombie called for a draw to Mackey, who with time running out broke free down the left sideline before going out of bounds just shy of the goal line at the 1-yard line with eight seconds left.
He then promptly punched the ball in, and A.J. McRoberts — who hit three field goals for Seneca in the win — hit the game-winning extra point before the Bobcats successfully covered the ensuing kickoff to end the night.
“We thought if it was a surprise to us, it was probably going to be a surprise to them, too,” Capps said of the call to feed Mackey and keep the ball on the ground with no timeouts. “For him just to run with the heart he runs with, and how hard he runs and keeps his legs going, he carried a big load tonight.
“He carried more than 170 pounds, I’ll tell you that.”
And Mackey’s teammates certainly weren’t surprised by his performance with their first win of the season on the line.
“He’s a warrior, and he always has been,” Bay said. “He’ll always get past one tackle, and I knew going in it was going to be a touchdown before we even snapped the ball on the last play. I had 100-percent confidence he was going to get in.”
Mackey was a workhorse Thursday night, rushing 31 times for 159 yards and three scores. He was spelled capably by Shawntravis Holden, who added 83 yards on 19 carries with a 1-yard score of his own, as Seneca finished the night with 57 carries for 280 yards.
Seneca’s other score on the evening came courtesy of Walker Lathrop, who for the second time in four games returned a kickoff for a touchdown — this one from 98 yards — in the opening quarter.
Now with its first win of the season under its belt, Seneca will close non-region play with a home date against Belton-Honea Path next week, and Capps is happy to go in to the challenging contest on a winning note after his team had the wherewithal to withstand a fierce Palmetto comeback on Thursday night.
“Even though we had the lead, there were murmurs,” he said. “Those thoughts are still in your mind, and that’s human nature. You wonder when it’s going to implode, so credit to our kids. I told them I’ll take every loss — they’re all on me.
“I want them to take all the wins, and I’m proud they won the ballgame tonight.”
“We’ve been through a lot, and we just wanted to win,” Mackey added. “The fans deserved it, our parents deserved it, and we worked hard for this. I’m just glad we got the win.”
Seneca 44, Palmetto 43
SHS 14 13 7 10 — 44
PHS 14 0 14 15 — 43
SHS — Mackey 6 run (McRoberts kick), 6:31
PHS — Beaty 18 run (Cortez kick), 4:22
SHS — Lathrop 98 kickoff return (McRoberts kick), 4:08
PHS — Williams 56 pass from Garner (Cortez kick), 1:52
SHS — Mackey 20 run (McRoberts kick), 10:08
SHS — McRoberts 25 field goal, 4:21
SHS — McRoberts 32 field goal, 0:00
PHS — Williams 42 pass from Garner (Cortez kick), 10:02
SHS — Holden 1 run (McRoberts kick), 4:19
PHS — Beaty 5 run (Cortez kick), 3:05
SHS — McRoberts 40 field goal, 8:04
PHS — Beaty 16 run (Cortez kick), 5:56
PHS — Beaty 17 run (Williams pass from Garner), 1:59
SHS — Mackey 1 run (McRoberts kick), 0:04
Total. Yards 340 426
First Downs 22 17
Rushes-Yards 57-280 22-135
Passing Yards 60 291
Com-Att-Int 7-15-0 13-20-1
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 3-29 5-25
Punts-Avg. 2-27.5 1-31
RUSHING — Seneca, Mackey 31-159, Holden 19-83, Bay 5-25, Hunter 1-12, Alexander 1-1; Palmetto, Beaty 10-87, Thompson 6-29, Young 2-16, Owens 3-8, Garner 1-(-)5.
PASSING — Seneca, Bay 7-15-0 60; Palmetto, Garner 13-20-1 291.
RECEIVING — Seneca, Lathrop 1-25, Goss 1-11, Alexander 2-8, Hunter 2-8, Evett 1-8; Palmetto, Williams 5-135, Owens 3-83, Young 3-54, Beaty 1-11, Fair 1-8.
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