The Smyrna High football team scored 40 points in the second half on the way to a 47-41 home victory over Sussex Tech on Friday night. Quarterback Mark Wright pushed into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left on the clock.
Forty points in 24 minutes.
There was simply no stopping the Smyrna High football team in the second half of Friday night’s home game against Sussex Tech.
The Eagles exploded for six touchdowns after halftime, including four in the fourth quarter, and two in the final four minutes of the game.
The last one, which came with 15 seconds left on the clock, lifted Smyrna to a thrilling, 47-41 upset victory.
The game’s most dramatic moments came after Sussex Tech scored to take a 41-34 lead with 3:56 left in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles answered right back on their ensuing possession with a quick-strike scoring drive, capped by a 41-yard touchdown run by Carlton Nash. Justin Coleman’s extra point tied the game at 41-41 with 2:49 on the clock.
Then, on the kickoff, Smyrna’s line drive squib kick struck a Sussex Tech player and bounced right back toward the Eagles. Smyrna fell on the loose ball and regained possession at the Ravens’ 47 yard line.
The Smyrna offense moved down the field and overcame a holding penalty to keep its drive going. The Eagles also converted on fourth down and two when quarterback Mark Wright scrambled to pick up the needed yardage.
A run by Carlton Nash took the Eagles down to Sussex Tech’s 11 yard line, but time was ticking away. Smyrna took its final timeout with 35 seconds left and got ready for its chance to win the game.
Mark Wright took the ball to the 4 yard line on a quarterback keeper, and the Eagles quickly jumped back up to the line of scrimmage without a huddle.
On the next play, Wright ran with the ball again and powered into the end zone for the winning touchdown with 15.8 seconds remaining in the game.
The play ended right at the goal line, and some Sussex Tech players indicated that they had taken the ball away, but the Eagles, and more importantly the officials, signaled touchdown.
The Eagles led, 47-41.
Even after that frantic finish, there was still a bit of drama yet to unfold.
On the final play of the game, Sussex Tech completed a short pass and the receiver found room to run down the sideline, but the Smyrna defense forced him out of bounds near the Eagles’ 20 yard line to seal the victory.
“That’s four quarters of football,” said Justin Coleman after the game.
Despite committing five turnovers, Smyrna found a way to bounce back after each mistake and rise to the occasion whenever Sussex Tech started to pull away.
Mark Wright, who scored the winning touchdown, reflected on the Eagles’ final drive.
Wright said he wanted to overcome mistakes from earlier in the game and “step up and do what I’m supposed to do” as a senior leader.
“It’s one win, but that’s a huge win for our program,” said head coach Clay Lloyd after the game.
Lloyd noted how his team answered each challenge it faced.
“To win a game like that you have to persevere,” he said. “Tech is a quality team. I’m so proud of the kids, and I want to congratulate them.”
The Eagles were able to rise above the outside negativity that came along after a rough start to the season. Now they’ve won two of their last three games.
The two quarters of action on Friday night gave little indication that the game would turn into such a wild shootout in the second half.
Sussex Tech led 14-7 going into the half, with Smyrna’s only touchdown coming on defense.
In the first quarter, Malik Brooks forced a fumble and Jermere Gaines scooped up the ball and ran it back about 60 yards for a Smyrna touchdown.
Gaines made another monster play on defense early in the third quarter.
Demetrius Williams deflected a pass, and Gaines was there to grab the ball out of the air. Gaines returned the interception 70 yards for his second defensive touchdown of the game.
At that point, Smyrna had tied the game 14-14 with its two scores coming on fumble and interception returns.
Sussex Tech answered back with a touchdown drive to regain the lead, but the Eagles wasted no time when they got the ball back.
After initially bobbling Sussex Tech’s kickoff, Cameron Nash broke into the open on his return and got to Smyrna’s 48 yard line.
From there, quarterback Mark Wright completed a pass downfield to Keith Tucker, who evaded a tackler with a spin move and took it to the house for a 52-yard touchdown. Smyrna’s extra point was blocked, but the Ravens’ lead was down to 21-20.
Later in the quarter, the Ravens took advantage of a short field after recovering a Smyrna fumble and scored on a touchdown run to take a 28-20 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Sussex Tech scored again on a 19-yard passing play, and seemed to have taken control of the game with a 34-20 lead.
But the Eagles were just getting started.
Cameron Nash returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to make the score 34-27.
The Smyrna defense then forced a three-and-out, and the Eagles got the ball right back. The Eagles drove down the field, and Carlton Nash ran into the end zone from less than a yard away. Justin Coleman’s extra point tied the game at 34-34 with 6:46 left on the clock.
After that, Smyrna’s defense came up with another stop, but when the Eagles got the ball back, they lost another fumble in their own territory. Sussex Tech took it in from there and scored on a 1-yard run for a 41-34 lead with 3:56 left to play.
The Ravens looked to be in good shape after that go-ahead touchdown, but the Eagles owned the final four minutes. The next time Sussex Tech got possession of the football, they were down by a touchdown with only seconds remaining in the game.
On Friday, the Smyrna High varsity football team will plays its final home game of the season against non-conference opponent Delcastle.