Albemarle 19, East Columbus 18
Fri. November 16, 2012 at 9:34 p.m. | By StarNews Sports Department
ALBEMARLE | Albemarle's Julio Cisneros kicked a 32-yard field goal with 3:58 to play, giving the Bulldogs a one-point home win in the Class 1A state quarterfinals.
East Columbus (9-5) had taken the lead earlier in the fourth when Greg Melvin returned a fumble 75 yards for a touchdown. But with a 17-16 lead, the Gators did not go for two points and create a three-point lead.
"We didn't have the right personnel out there," Gators coach Toby Kasell said. "Our kicker got out there so fast and took it ... It was such a fast turnover and there was a lot of excitement right there. That wasn't the one thing that lost the game though."
But Albemarle got into field goal range on its ensuing possession, then picked off a pass deep in its own territory to thwart the Gators last offensive drive.
"They played a heck of a game up until the last minute," Kasell said. "There wasn't any quit in this thing."
Albemarle led 16-3 at halftime, but East Columbus started its comeback with a Tarrin Manning touchdown midway through the third quarter.
"They've just got some big guys up front on defense, and they were doing a good job of penetration," Kasell said. "Their game plan was to take the inside game away and they did a great job of that."
Gators quarterback Rick Ratliff finished 12-for-24 for 194 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions as the team went to a shorter passing game in the second half, but it wasn't enough to overcome the big deficit.
Still, the Gators finished with a school-record nine victories and came within a touchdown of claiming their first outright conference championship.
"They see that East Columbus can go to the third round or fourth round and farther (now)," Kasell said. "That bar is attainable for this school. Words can't explain how proud I am of these players and this coaching staff. I love 'em all, I appreciate it."