COLUMBIA — With a one-point lead and 2:20 left in the game, Hickman didn’t play safe.
No prevent defense. No three-man rush. Not even a zone.
Instead, the Kewpies brought the heat against Gateway Tech, which was relying on its No. 3 quarterback, Kalene Petty, because of injuries.
The ball was snapped from the Jaguars' 49-yard line. Petty, back in the shotgun, didn’t have time to react before sophomore defensive end Alex Keith gobbled him up for an 11-yard loss.
Without any timeouts, the Jaguars scurried to get the next play off as the clock continued to tick.
This time, it was junior linebacker Mike Mattie storming through the hole between the center and left guard. Petty backpedaled, but couldn’t escape. Mattie dislodged the ball, which rolled into the hands of sophomore defensive back Jordan Smith.
“We called a blitz, and I came through untouched,” Mattie said. “I just hit him and he didn’t have hold and the ball went flying. I thought he had already thrown it, and I didn’t want to get a late hit. I just hit him and stood him up and it flew out”
With the ball on Gateway Tech’s 14-yard line and less than two minutes on the clock, Hickman’s 19-18 lead was secure.
“It was just amazing that I had the opportunity to do that,” Mattie said. “All my teammates they were pulling for everybody. It was just great that we could end the game like that.”
With Gateway Tech’s leading receiver taking the final snaps at quarterback, the Kewpies did everything they could to take advantage of his inexperience.
“We decided when they went one back gun, we’re going to pressure them,” coach Jason Wright said. “I was impressed with the kid tonight because he hadn’t played a lot of quarterback to be quite honest with you. He made some plays. I was not expecting that.”
For Hickman, it was junior running back Ryan Asbury making the plays. With starter Josh Williams on the bench for the second half because of a separated shoulder, Asbury was able to take advantage of his extra touches.
Asbury ran for more than 100 yards for the first time in his career. His night was highlighted by a three-play touchdown drive in which he ran the ball on all three plays for a total of 47 yards. That touchdown proved to be the game winner.
But the most exciting play of the night for Asbury was when he got to watch his teammate force the final fumble and that guaranteed a homecoming victory for the Kewpies.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings – knowing you’re going to win,” Asbury said. “We knew we were going to get the ball. We started hitting them and yelling and screaming.”