At first many were wondering what Simeon punter Mitchell Benton was doing when he took the snap in his own end zone with 1 minute, 28 seconds left and his team ahead of visiting Lyons 20-14 at Gately Stadium.
Benton took the snap, held the ball for about five seconds until the Lions, who were setting up for the return, realized the Wolverines were trying to take a safety. Benton stepped out of the end zone taking the safety and then left the rest up to the defense.
That defense, fresh off a goal-line stand, didn’t bend a bit, holding the Lions on their final drive and helping the Wolverines escape with a 20-16 win. Simeon will meet Neuqua Valley in Round 2 of the Class 8A playoffs next week.
“We didn’t want to punt the ball so we just took the safety and left it up to the defense,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said. “Our defense had been carrying all year and they are just real solid.”
That defense entered the playoffs pitching three consecutive shutouts and allowing just 19 points in the last six games after the Wolverines (7-3) started the season 0-3.
The Lions (5-5) led 14-12 with 9:42 left in the fourth before Christopher Jones, a 6-1, 225-pound linebacker, was called upon by Culbreath for his first and only carry of the game. He scored on a third-and-goal from the 1 for what proved to be the winning points.
Lions running back Leonard Ross erased a 6-0 deficit with touchdown runs of 13 and three yards in the second quarter to give his team a 14-6 lead. Ross finished with 17 carries for 77 yards.
Jordan Reid scored on a 23-yard pass from Timon Watkins (11-of-14, 169 yards, 2 TD) to close the Wolverines within 14-12 at the break. Jamar Washington caught the first touchdown pass in the first quarter from 22 yards out.
The Wolverines’ defense posted six sacks, including two by lineman Maurice Burton.
“This was some good competition and just a great game,” Watkins said. “I’m always behind out coach and I know he won’t steer us wrong.
“We are going to come to play [next week].”