The difference between having an exceptional season and just another good season for the Emerald High School football team came down to just three plays. Three plays stood in between the Vikings challenging for the Region 1-AAA title and a deep playoff run.
And those three plays stick out in coach Tim McMahon's mind.
"We played well," McMahon said. "We were in every football game and could've won every football game. We had a good year, the kids played hard and made a lot progress on defense. But we were, literally, three plays from having a very special season."
The first of those plays came against Wren in the fourth game of the season for the Vikings and their first region game. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Emerald trailed by seven points but had Wren quarterback Kelly Bryant dead to rights poised for a big loss.
But Bryant wriggled out of trouble and dropped off a screen pass to running back Nathaniel Ekwere, who took the pass and scampered 65 yards for a score, vaulting the Hurricanes to a 49-28 victory.
The next devastating loss came against region foe and eventual Class AAA runner up Daniel. Tied at 28 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, Emerald quarterback Logan Yates was stripped of the ball, and the Lions scooped the fumble and returned it 16 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
And finally, in the first game of the playoffs against Greer, the Vikings held a three-point lead on the first-seeded Yellow Jackets only to give up a late fourth-quarter touchdown run to lose 34-30.
"Obviously, if we had that one play at Wren, one play at Daniel and one play at Greer, it really could've been different," McMahon said. "That would've been nice to have. It's tough, but it was a very good season."
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