The Arab Knights football team is two minutes and 5.9 seconds away from being undefeated.
But after losing in heartbreaking fashion for the second time in three weeks Friday night at Guntersville, the Knights are instead 1-2 in Class 5A, Region 8 play and 3-2 overall.
Facing third-and-goal from the 6, the Wildcats scored on a 6-yard pass from a scrambling Zak Burnett to William Leach with 31.9 seconds to play to pull out a wild 45-42 win. The score followed a go-ahead TD by Arab on a 1-yard Ross Reynolds quarterback sneak with 2:44 to play.
The 75-yard scoring drive made it 42-38 Arab after Colin Stewart’s extra point, and after the Wildcats were backed up to their own 18 after a block in the back penalty on the kickoff return, it looked like the Knights were going to be on the winning side of a tough region game this time.
But Guntersville’s Logan Pate somehow got away from heavy Arab pursuit on a run around right end, and his 38-yard run set up the Wildcats at the Knights’ 44. Seven plays later, Guntersville scored the game’s final go-ahead TD.
For the Knights, it brought back memories of the Brewer game on Sept. 6. Arab led by 11 points in the second half, but the Patriots scored on a 69-yard TD pass with 1:34 to play to pull out a 29-21 win.
Arab coach Lee Ozmint was crestfallen on the field afterward. At once proud of his players’ effort and the offense’s execution, he bemoaned costly penalties and other mistakes that prevented his team from breaking the Wildcats’ six-game winning streak in the rivalry.
“We’ve got to learn how to win,” he said over and over. “When we get in these tight games, we’ve got to find ways and make plays to win the game.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do in gaining toughness. We’ve got a lot of work to do in doing what we’re coached to do.”
The game didn’t lack for excitement and offense. According to Arab’s statistics, the teams combined for 923 yards of total offense (Arab 468, Guntersville 455). The total number of points, 87, was the most scored in the series, topping the 62 scored in 2004 when Arab defeated the Wildcats 35-27.
Offensive stars dominated the game. For Arab, Reynolds was 17-21 for 210 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 18 times for 113 yards and one TD.
Running back Matthew Turnage was equally prolific. He ran the ball 20 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns and caught two passes for 28 yards. Colby King had six catches for 84 yards, Will Hudson had five grabs for 37 yards and a TD and Alex Alcala had three big receptions for 36 yards and a TD. Tight end Taylor had one key grab over the middle for a 25-yard gain.
None of the Knights seemingly could be stopped.
For Guntersville, Burnett and Pate also seemed unstoppable. Burnett was 20-of-29 passing for 209 yards and two TD.
Pate carried the ball 23 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns. Jack Harris had two catches for 68 yards, Leach had eight catches for 52 yards and two TDs and Brandon Fussell had six catches 51 yards.
“The bottom line is, our offense played a great football game,” Ozmint said.
“But we’re still making stupid penalties.”
One game early when Arab’s Christian Eaton, arguably the Knights’ best defensive player, was ejected on a personal foul call. With the loss of another starting defender, reportedly because of a suspension, the Knights’ defense had to play with one hand tied behind its back for most of the game, and it showed.
But mistakes weren’t limited to the defensive side of the ball.
After Arab stopped a 10-play Guntersville march at the 16 with less than a minute to go in the third quarter, the Wildcats’ Pablo Rios kicked a 33-yard field goal that made the score 28-24 in favor of Arab.
Rios’ kickoff went out of bounds, setting up the Knights at their own 35. But on Arab’s first play, Reynolds fumbled the handoff to Turnage, and Guntersville defensive lineman Donovan Roby picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone to give the Wildcats just their second lead of the night.
The 10 points in a span of just 18.1 seconds put Guntersville up 31-28, setting up the equally wild fourth quarter.
Reynolds and the offense also missed on a scoring opportunity just before the half. After Wilson Walker picked off Burnett when the Wildcats were just outside the red zone, he returned it all the way down to the Guntersville 29.
On the first play, the Knights went for the big strike and Reynolds’ pass into the end zone intended for King was picked off by Guntersville’s Harris.
It was the first of two interceptions by Reynolds.
Late in the game, after Guntersville went ahead 45-42, the Knights had one last long shot chance to at least tie the game.
Starting from their own 35 after yet another kickoff out of bounds, the Knights quickly got set back with a holding penalty. After a completion, Arab faced third-and-3 with 13.4 seconds left (and no timeouts),.
Reynolds threw it moderately deep and Jerrelle Williamson picked it off to seal Guntersville’s win.
Guntersville improved to 3-1 (2-1 in region play). Both teams are off this Friday night.
• Arab JV 14,
Gadsden City 7
Hayden O’Reilly scored on touchdown runs of 6 and 3 yards as Arab’s junior varsity team won at Gadsden City 14-7 Monday night to remain undefeated on the season.
O’Reilly scored on a 6-yard run with 5:21 left in the second quarter. Gadsden City tied it up on a 2-yard TD run with 5:41 left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Arab’s Spencer Strickland picked off a pass at the 40 and returned it to the Gadsden 7.
Two plays later, O’Reilly scored from the 3 to make it 14-7 after Gavin Currier’s extra point with 3:06 to play.
Hayden Patterson also had an interception for the Knights (4-0). Connor Knighten had a fumble recovery.
The JV Knights play at Fairview next Monday night. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.