By Morgan Bryce
With 5.8 seconds remaining in Beauregard’s first-round playoff game against Greenville, the fate of the Hornets’ playoff hopes were placed squarely on the right foot of their senior placekicker Ricardo Mendoza.
Snap. Hold. Place. Kick. Mendoza’s 37-yard try sailed over the crossbar, clinching a 23-20 Hornet victory over Greenville and punching a ticket to the second round of the playoffs.
After a botched extra-point attempt earlier in the game, Mendoza said he only had thoughts of redemption swirling through his head as he lined up to boot his team to victory.
“I was out practicing because I knew it might come down to this. I missed that field goal, and I thought that we would lose because it was my fault,” Mendoza said. “So, I was like, ‘I’ve got to make this. I’ve got to make this.’ And, it happened.”
Mendoza’s kick was made possible by senior Hornet quarterback Jaichis Holmes, who piloted the offense 62 yards in under two minutes to set up the game-winning score.
Hopes of a Hornet victory seemed slim at first, as the Beauregard defense once again struggled to contain Greenville’s explosive rushing attack, led by Javion Posey, Arick Bogan and Bishop Riley.
The Tigers struck first at the 4:53 mark of the first quarter, as Riley took a jet-sweep handoff from Posey for an 18-yard touchdown. Eschewing the extra point, Posey lined the offense up in a swinging-gate formation, took the snap and ran behind his blockers for an easy two-point conversion.
The Greenville defense limited the Hornets to 41 total first-quarter yards and multiple three-and-outs.
On the first play of the second quarter, another long, sustained drive by the Tigers was capped off by a 4-yard keeper from Posey, extending their lead to 14. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt by the Tigers failed.
Holmes sparked the Hornet offense minutes later with a 41-yard strike to junior wide receiver Quatavious Seroyer, cutting the Tiger lead to 14-7.
Following an interception by defensive back Jared McDonald at the Greenville 31-yard line, Beauregard’s All-State running back and Mississippi State commit La’damian Webb took a toss from Holmes two plays later and slashed the Tiger defense for a 19-yard score.
Tied 14-14 at halftime, both team’s stingy defensive play set the tone for a grind-it-out second half.
Nine minutes into the third quarter, Riley ran back a punt 83 yards for a score, once again swinging the momentum back to the Tigers and giving them a 20-14 lead.
Late in the third quarter, a Hunter Feaster fumble recovery set up the Beauregard offense with prime field position at the Greenville 12-yard line. On the quarter’s final play, Webb suffered a game-ending ankle injury, leaving Holmes and backup running back Jacob Callaway to burden the load.
Two plays later, Holmes showcased his toughness with a 1-yard run, utilizing the surge provided by his offensive line to reach the end zone. With the score tied at 20, Mendoza slipped as he attempted the extra point, and the kick was blocked by the interior of the Tiger defensive front.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth affair, as both team’s offenses had multiple chances to cement leads, but failed to capitalize.
On the eventual game-winning drive, Holmes executed a perfect two-minute offense, completing short, sideline-bound throws to Seroyer, Danyton Thomas and Isaiah McKissic to both advance the ball and stop the clock.
Following Mendoza’s kick, the Tigers’ last chance to win was fumbled away as Jabez Sims on the kick return. The ball popped loose as Sims tried to juke and landed in Thomas’s waiting arms as the clock hit triple zero.
The Beauregard defense, led by their deep defensive line and ferocious linebacking trio of Feaster, Callaway and Kyle Hugley, limited the Tigers to 231 yards of total offense.
Offensively, Beauregard achieved balance, finishing with 174 yards rushing and 142 passing for a combined 316 total yards. The Hornets were led by Webb’s 105 rushing yards and a TD, and Seroyer, who hauled in five catches for 84 yards and another score.
With the win, the (10-1) Hornets will face the (7-4) Calera Eagles this Friday at Hornet Stadium in the second round of the AHSAA Class 5A playoffs. The Eagles are coming off a 28-27 thriller over Jackson.
Avenging his team’s 34-31 loss to Greenville in the season opener, Carter said his team’s defensive play was key in finding a way to win and move on to the second round.
“We knew coming in they hurt us so much with the run, with the quarterback and the good running back they had. They hit a few good passes that kept them moving on drives. But, all in all, our defense did a great job,” Carter said.
Kickoff against Calera is set for 7 p.m. Beauregard High School is located at 7343 Alabama Highway 51.