Trailing 17-14 with under 5 minutes to play Mason Shiflett caught a short slant pass from Taylor Wolf, broke a tackle and raced 74 yards to score the game-winning touchdown and lead the Greyhounds to a 21-17 victory.
The win moves Pope (3-4, 2-0 Region 7AAAAA (B)) into a tie for first place in the subregion with Kell.
Sprayberry nearly returned the favor with a game-winning drive of its own, but the Greyhounds defense held strong on fourth-and-short, stuffing Sprayberry’s Shane King at the Yellow Jacket 21-yard line to seal a victory.
“This game is a battle every dang time,” said Pope coach Matt Kemper. “It doesn’t matter what our record is, what their record is or what is on the line. We knew it would be a battle to the last play and it sure was tonight, I’m just proud of our kids for making the one (play) to put us on top.”
Shiflett’s highlight catch and run — which came on a critical third-and-four with 4:35 to play — was just one of a number of big moments for the senior.
Trailing 3-0 in the first quarter, Shiflett powered into the end zone from 4 yards out to give Pope their first lead of the game.
His 15-yard catch on the Greyhounds’ next drive set up Logan Carr for a short touchdown run that sent Pope into halftime with a 14-3 lead, and Shiflett iced the game with a 61-yard run in the fourth quarter. He finished the night as the game’s leading rusher and receiver, running for 110 yards on six carries and totaling 91 yards through the air on a pair of receptions.
“(Shiflett) has made those plays for us all year,” Kemper said. “He did the same thing on a slant against Osborne two weeks ago and he’s got about a 4.5 GPA on top of all of that. He’s a good kid and I’m proud he’s on our team.”
For Sprayberry, and coach Billy Shackelford, the loss was another
in a frustrating season so far —
but didn’t come without a few
Back-up quarterback Andrew Pierra completed 18-of-22 passes to lead an efficient Yellow Jacket offense and the Sprayberry defense, which was allowing nearly 40 points per game, held a powerful Pope offense to just 21 points.
“Our defense gave our offense a short field a few times which helped, and our offense played really well especially in the second half,” Shackelford said. “We just dug ourselves a little bit too big of a hole to get out of in the first half with self-inflicted mistakes.”
Sprayberry’s mistakes included 75 yards worth of first half penalties, a high-snap on a field goal attempt and a costly fumble on the goalline by Pierra — who played an otherwise mistake-free game in place of injured starter Shane Young.
“Andrew certainly didn’t look like a sophomore tonight, he was calm, cool and poised and really played his tail off. Our receiving corps was great too, but it just wasn’t quite enough tonight.”
Pierra’s night included an 18-yard third-quarter touchdown pass to Bryce Perryman that cut Pope’s second half lead to 14-10. He followed that by leading the Yellow Jackets on a 15-play, 93-yard touchdown drive to open the fourth quarter where he completed 6-of-7 passes.
Rakeem Myricks capped off the long march with a 10-yard touchdown run with 5:58 left in the fourth quarter that put Sprayberry on top 17-14.
King led Sprayberry in rushing with 102 yards on 21 carries, Myricks added 54 yards on nine carries.
Wolf completed 8 of 16 passes for 150 yards for Pope through the air, he also ran for 91 yards on nine carries.