The Mead Panthers had to get to overtime to have a chance Friday.
Once they did, junior running back Davian Barlow, who scored the tying touchdown as time expired, scored on a 14-yard run on Mead’s second play in OT. Coupled with Marc David’s point-after kick, the Panthers pulled off a 21-20, come-from-behind win over the Lewis and Clark Tigers.
The Tigers’ defense, which had bottled up Mead several times, appeared as if it would rise up one more time on the final series in regulation.
Facing a third-and-goal at the 1-yard line, Mead called its last timeout with 26 seconds remaining. If the Panthers didn’t score, they would have to regroup quickly and try to get off a final play.
LC’s Robbie Mick stuffed Barlow for no gain. The Panthers scrambled, snapping the ball when the clock reached 3 seconds. Quarterback Andy Wetzel was going to run the same play as the down before, but he checked to an outside run to Barlow, who did the rest with the help of a key block by tight end Danny Mattingly.
The Tigers (2-1) got the ball first from the 25 in OT. LC moved to the 3 and on first down, running back Ammar Johnson, a workhorse all game, plowed in for a TD. But the point-after kick by Matt Martin hit the left upright flush and bounded away.
On Mead’s first play, Barlow gained 9 yards to the 14, setting up his tying TD.
“I kept telling my teammates that they needed to keep doing what they needed to do. I got outside and had one man to beat and did my best and got into the end zone,” said Barlow, who gained 121 yards on 29 carries. “I said to my team, ‘Just keep pushing and fighting and we’ll make it through it.’ ”
Although it’s just the third week in the season, Mead (2-1) needed the win after losing at Central Valley last week.
“We needed to bounce back from the CV game,” Barlow said. “It was a tough loss. Hopefully, this game does it for us and we keep rolling and find a way into the playoffs.”
LC took the lead at 14-7 when Johnson bounced outside for a 6-yard TD run with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, LC’s Pat Williams intercepted a pass to stop a Mead drive deep in Tigers territory.
Mead’s final possession started at its 23 with 5:50 remaining. Slowed at times by penalties, the Panthers put together perhaps their best series of the game, culminating with Barlow’s tying TD.
“The losses like last week are hard to take, but even through those, as one of the coaches said, man this was fun,” Mead coach Sean Carty said. “It might not have been as fun if we don’t pull it off. Every time this happens it reminds me of why I’m here.”
Both teams played solid defense, especially in the first half.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers put together a seven-play series marching 74 yards. Johnson capped the scoring drive when he leaped 2 yards over a pile in the middle of the field to put LC ahead 7-0 with 9:52 remaining before halftime.
Mead went three and out. But the Panthers’ defense stiffened moments later after the Tigers drove to Mead’s 12-yard line.
The Panthers stuffed the Tigers on the first play and LC quarterback Jeff Livingston threw back-to-back incomplete passes. A 28-yard field-goal attempt by Martin was just wide left.
Mead turned the defensive momentum into offense, moving 80 yards on 13 plays. On third-and-goal at LC’s 8, Evan Maack took an inside counter untouched into the end zone with 46 seconds left before halftime, knotting the score at 7.
Both offenses were kept in check the first two quarters. LC had 127 yards total offense to Mead’s 105.
LC coach Dave Hughes praised linebackers Williams and Josh Syrotchen.
“I was proud of the way our kids played,” Hughes said. “We needed to make a few more big plays. We win together, we lose together.”
Carty believes the win could be a catapult to the rest of the season.
“When it’s all said and done, no matter what, the record’s going to show this is one of the toughest teams I’ve ever coached,” Carty said. “We’ve had so many injuries and sicknesses and battled through things. These guys are going to hang together.”