By Joshua Huff
HOMEWOOD — Underneath a Friday night sky so thick that even a football flying through the air seemed implausible, the Center Point Eagles rallied from a seven-point deficit with less than a minute left in the game to defeat Class 6A Region 6 Homewood, 22-21.
The victory is the fourth straight for the Eagles, who now sit 5-1, 3-0 in Class 5A Region 5.
“Homewood is still a good team,” Center Point head coach George Bates said. “I don’t want to hear about the rap that they’re down. Homewood is still a perennial power in 6A. We’re an upstart program in 5A. To get a notch on our belt from this win will prepare us to go deeper in the tournament.”
The two teams matched quite well throughout. Neither team was able to stretch its lead past a touchdown. It was Homewood that struck first on a Pate Owen touchdown pass to Winston Ausmer to open the scoring. Center Point was able to respond as the clock turned over in the second quarter on a 2-yard Jaylen Taylor touchdown plunge.
That touchdown proceeded a Javon Davis interception that was snagged by Homewood’s Kameron Gaines at the 2-yard line. Center Point’s defense held firm and forced a three-and-out, which resulted in a short punt that went out of bounds on Homewood’s 24-yard line that set up the ensuing touchdown drive.
Center Point pulled ahead midway through the second quarter after its defense recovered an Owen fumble after he was hit by linebacker Anterrius Craig. The recovery halted a Patriot’s drive that was threatening within the 10-yard line. Davis would then follow with a 79-yard touchdown pass to the speedy Jayson Jones who put the Eagles up 14-7.
“He’s a great kid,” Bates said of Davis. “He’s a really cerebral guy. I want him to run the ball more than he did tonight. But, he tried to use his arm more than his legs. We can correct that next week and take what the defense gives you.”
Spurred on by a raucous homecoming crowd at Waldrop Stadium, the Patriots relied on their senior quarterback to steady the ship. With 3:25 left in the first half, Owen heaved a desperation pass on third and 23 that was hauled in for a touchdown to knot the game at 14-all. This began a trend for the Eagle’s defense beginning in the second quarter that lasted until the final Homewood drive.
Owen completed 19-of-33 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns.
That trend being the ease in with Homewood was able to connect on pass plays due to receivers being open by, in some cases, 10 yards or more. The Patriots relied on that air attack to march down the field with seconds remaining in the first half, but Center Point was able to mitigate the damage after safety RJ Orr snagged an interception that ended Homewood’s threat and the first half.
Homewood would continue to press and air the ball out in the second half. Despite Craig’s second sack of the game on the Patriot’s opening possession in the third quarter, Homewood was able to pull ahead 21-14 after Owen connected with Justin Towner, who played a brief game of hot potato with the ball before he nursed it in for the touchdown.
Center Point’s offense all but vanished in the third quarter. Fortunately, the Eagles escaped what could have been the fatal blow after Owen’s 76-yard touchdown pass was called back because of a penalty early in the fourth quarter. Center Point would force a turnover on downs, but it was unable to do anything offensively.
Homewood went for the dagger again midway through the fourth quarter but got caught being too fancy as the Eagles’ Jones intercepted Owen and returned it 30 yards; however, Homewood was saved by the grace of the referees after the interception was called back because of a personal foul. Center Point’s luck would swing in its favor though after Homewood settled for a field goal try that fell short in the thick, humid air.
That set up Center Point to perform one last bit of road warrior magic. With two minutes left in the game, Davis hit Tamarkus Judkins who ran it down to the 16-yard line of Homewood. A few plays later, Taylor pounded the ball in from the 2-yard line to narrow the lead to 20-21 with 53 seconds left in regulation.
A two-point conversion attempt was a done deal before Taylor even crossed the goal line.
“It’s wasn’t a secret,” Bates said. “We don’t kick extra points.”
Even Homewood knew what was coming, but it was unable to stop Jones from taking the keeper, lowing his head and blowing through the waiting defense.
“Things are clicking,” Bates said. “Between Jayson (Jones) and Javon (Davis). This is just our sixth game with those guys. We’re still gelling and trying to find out who we are. We have a great idea of it, but it’s going to just continue to improve.”
Davis finished the night 19-of-29 passing for 251 yards. Jones caught 13 passes and totaled 152 yards.
In a season that has surpassed the expectations of many, Center Point continues to be the darling of Class 5A.
“Our guys fought and fought and fought,” Bates said. “That’s all you can ask for from these kids. These kids want more than what Center Point has been getting. We are going to go out and earn what we need to do.”