Kell quarterback Evan Conley didn’t play during the first half of the Longhorns’ Region 7-AAAAA game at East Paulding on Friday because of a ligament injury in his left (non-throwing) arm that he suffered during a 28-10 victory against Cass last week.
However, with his team trailing 27-14 with seven minutes to go in the third quarter, Kell coach Brett Sloan knew he could wait no longer to get his junior quarterback into the game.
Conley responded, leading the Longhorns to four touchdowns in the final 19 minutes, including two in a 20-second span in the game’s final 1:02, to salvage a 42-35 victory.
“We were trying to hold him out as long as we could, but we just felt like in the second half we needed a spark,” Sloan said. “He was good enough to give it a go. We were trying to let him heal, but he was cleared and everything like that. We felt like Blake [Simpson, a wide receiver who started in Conley’s place] was doing a good job and was doing some good things, but we felt like in the second half we needed a spark, so we went ahead and threw him in there. He’s a special player.”
Kell (3-3, 3-1) trailed 35-28 with 3:29 to play but drove 73 yards in seven plays and scored on a 34-yard pass from Conley to Michael Luckie with 1:02 left. The Longhorns decided to go for two, but East Paulding stopped Josiah Futral’s run short of the goal line to preserve a 35-34 lead.
However, Kell recovered the ensuing onside kick at the East Paulding 46 and scored two plays and 20 seconds later on a 44-yard pass from Conley to Andre Kimble. Conley ran in the two-point conversion for the 42-35 final score.
“I told them this week that we’re beat up, we’ve got a lot of guys hurt,” Sloan said. “We’ve been through some brutal wars these first six games. I told them that we’re going to find one of two things. We’re either going to find an excuse to lose, an excuse to just say we’re hurt and lay down, or we’re going to find a way to win. We kept saying that, and they stepped up and did it.”
The game was tied 14-14 at halftime, but East Paulding scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter to take a 27-14 lead. Tyrell Robinson scored on a 43-yard run, and John Estes threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Dominic Burnam.
Kell answered with two third-quarter touchdowns - an 18-yard pass from Conley to Kimble and a 4-yard run by Simpson - that were both set up by East Paulding fumbles, regaining the lead at 28-27. But East Paulding went back on top 35-28 on a 2-yard run by Robinson and a two-point conversion with 9:18 to play in the game.
Robinson had a huge night for East Paulding (1-4, 1-2), rushing for 265 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. East Paulding outgained the Longhorns 410-395.
Conley was 7-of-15 passing for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Simpson was 2-of-8 for 99 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 91 yards and a score on 13 carries. Luckie had five receptions for 172 yards, and Kimble caught three passes for 74 yards. Both had two touchdown receptions.
The teams combined for 384 yards of total offense in the first half (Kell had a 198-186 advantage), but more than half of it came on the four scoring plays.
Kell scored two touchdowns on five plays on its first two possessions. Simpson scored on a 53-yard run on the Longhorns’ third offensive play for a 7-0 lead with 7:30 to play in the first quarter. On the second play of the Longhorns’ next possession, Simpson knocked down a high snap, picked the ball up and threw to a wide-open Luckie for a 75-yard touchdown.
In between those scores, Robinson had a 55-yard touchdown run.
The Raiders still trailed 14-7 when they took over on their 20 with 4:07 to play in the half. From there, they drove 80 yards on seven plays in just less than three minutes and scored on a 17-yard pass from Estes to Cole Brown to tie the score. Estes completed a 48-yard pass to Brown earlier in the drive that moved the ball to the Kell 18-yard line.
Kell - 14-0-14-14 - 42
East Paulding - 7-7-13-8 - 35
K - Blake Simpson 53 run (Colby Kearns kick)
E - Tyrell Robinson 55 run (Devlin Dolph kick)
K - Michael Luckie 75 pass from Simpson (Kearns kick)
E - Cole Brown 17 pass from John Estes (Dolph kick)
E - Robinson 43 run (kick failed)
E - Dominic Burnam 31 pass from Estes (Dolph kick)
K - Andre Kimble 18 pass from Evan Conley (Kearns kick)
K - Simpson 4 run (Kearns kick)
E - Robinson 2 run (Burnam pass from Estes)
K - Luckie 34 pass from Conley (run failed)
K - Kimble 44 pass from Conley (Conley run)