The Maroon Devil led for exactly 55 seconds of Friday’s third round playoff game with Mitchell. But, luckly for the Devils it was the final 55 seconds in which they held the lead. Swain used one of the most dominating quarters of their season to erase 4 fumbles and an interception and take a 28-21 win over the top seeded Mountaineers and advance to the Western Regional Championship game this week.
Swain turned in a sluggish and mistake prone first half, but reversed their fortunes with an outstanding second half of football. After falling behind 14-7 at halftime, the Devils were fortunate it wasn’t 28-7. Swain managed to dodge turnovers in their own territory on two separate occasions, keeping the Mountaineers from building their 14-7 advantage.
In the second half the Maroon Devils played like a totally different team. Drew Huskey started the second half for Swain by taking a short kick from Mitchell and returning it 35 yards into Mitchell territory.
From here the Swain offense alternated runs between Josue Otero and Colby Hyatt. It only took four runs by the duo to punch in the game tying touchdown. Hyatt scored on a 19 yard run just 1:50 into the second half. Evan Sneed tied the game with the extra point.
Mitchell’s lone second half offensive highlights came on their first possession of the second half. Facing third and seven Justin Hughes hit Troy Self for a 33 yard gain down to the Swain 40 yard line. One play later Michael Styles put on a highlight reel run, breaking several tackles, and scoring on a 40 yard touchdown run, that gave Mitchell the lead back at 21-14.
That drive would be it for the high powered Mitchell offense. For the remainder of the game they were limited to only 31 yards of offense and only 1 first down.
The Devils took the ensuing kickoff after the Mitchell touchdown and drove 64 yards in 10 plays to tie the game at 28 with just over four minutes left in the third quarter. Facing a third and 10 from the Mitchell 13 yard line the Maroon Devils went to the air, where they found success all night. Colby Hyatt hit Josue Otero in the endzone for the touchdown. Sneed’s extra point tied the game at 28.
Swain opened the final quarter with two golden opportunities to take the lead. On the first Swain was stopped short on fourth and one from the Mitchell 14 yard line. Then their next drive carried them all the way to the Mitchell 8 yard line before their fourth and final fumble of the night stopped the drive.
Following the fumble at the Mitchell 8 the Maroon Devil defense went to work. Three running plays by Mitchell netted six yards to move the ball out to the Mountaineer 13 yard line with 5:46 left in the game. Mitchell turned things over to their All-State punter Michael Styles.
Styles’ punt covered 32 yards and was fielded by Matthew Maennle on the Mitchell 45 yard line. Maennle darted to his left, avoiding the first Mitchell tackler, and then bolted down the Swain sideline, untouched until he was tackled on the Mountaineer one yard line. The officials ruled that Maennle stepped out of bounds on the 13 yard line, and brought the ball back to the Mountaineer 13 yard line, where the Devils took over 1st and 10.
On first down Colby Hyatt carried to the 10 yard line. On second down he hit Maennle with a quick pass that Maennle took down to the Mitchell 4 yard line. Facing third and one Austin Shuler bulled his way across the goal line for the go ahead touchdown. Sneed’s extra point gave the Devils their first lead of the game at 28-21 with 55 seconds left in the game.
Senior C.J. Shepard sealed the win with a diving interception of Justin Hughes to end Mitchell’s desperation attempt and end the game.
Quarterback Colby Hyatt accounted for 182 yards of total offense as he went 8 of 13 through the air for 102 yards and 2 touchdowns. He scored another touchdown on the ground and rushed for 80 yards. Josue Otero added 118 yards on the grounds. Matthew Maennle had 7 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.
The Swain defense turned in another dominating performance in the second half. Mitchell was limited to no first downs and only 1 yard of offense in the decisive fourth quarter. In the second half, aside from a 33 yard pass completion and the 40 yard touchdown run, the Mountaineers mounted very little offense.
Swain (13-1) advances to host West Montgomery (11-2) in the Western Regional Finals this week. Kickoff will be at 7:30 from Swain Memorial Stadium.