DURANT — Southeastern junior kicker Joel Carlos kicked a line-drive field goal from 48 yards away with 57.1 seconds left in the game to help the Savage Storm clip East Central 27-24 Saturday afternoon at Paul Laird Field.
The gut-wrenching loss ended the Tigers’ 2017 season at 2-9, while Southeastern finished up at 7-4.
Southeastern’s Sherman Gilbert intercepted a pass from ECU quarterback Rayjohn Austin-Ramsey — his intended receiver never turned around for the ball — near midfield to set up the winning kick.
SOSU running back ran twice for 13 and 4 yards before two incomplete passes forced the long field goal attempt by Carlos. His kick was slicing to the left but fell just across the crossbar. It was the longest kick of Carlos’ career, topping his previous best of 43. The reliable kicker made 17-of-23 kicks this season.
The Tigers dominated the first half, racing out to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter before settling for a 17-7 lead at halftime.
The loss spoiled a milestone day for ECU freshman tailback Ontario “Mookie” Douglas. He finished with 98 yards on 24 carries, giving him 1,097 for the season. The last ECU running back to hit the 1,000-yard mark was King Bennett, who rushed for 1,094 in 2005. Douglas is the only runner in the Great American Conference to rush for 1,000 yards in 2017. Michael Nunnery of Southern Arkansas finished the year with 937 yards.
The Tigers used a 19-play, 92-yard drive that milked 9:39 of the first quarter away. Douglas had seven carries on the drive and the big play was his 25-yard scamper. Trinity Benson’s 4-yard touchdown catch with 1:13 left in the opening period capped the long march. Southeastern’s Damarius Lavender blocked Bobby Schmidt’s PAT kick, leaving ECU ahead 6-0.
On ECU’s next possession, the Tigers needed only one play to score. Austin-Ramsey hit Benson in stride and he sped past the SOSU secondary for a 61-yard touchdown. Dezmon Jackson hauled in a two-point pass that increased the ECU lead to 14-0 at the 13:54 mark of the second period.
Southeastern’s first score was set up by a 34-yard kickoff return by freshman OJ Walker. Ada High fans might recall Walker’s talent during his high school playing days at Ardmore High School.
Running back Rashad Polk ended the short scoring drive with a 3-yard TD run that sliced the ECU lead to 14-7 with just 3:33 left in the second frame.
East Central got the ball back near midfield after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Savage Storm (there were many such infractions in the heated contest as ECU finished with eight penalties for 84 yards and SOSU was flagged six times for 70 yards).
The Tigers got to the SOSU 17-yard line before setting for Schmidt’s 35-yard field goal that put the visitors on top 17-7 at halftime.
How dominant were the Tigers over the first two quarters? ECU had 188 yards of total offense compared to just 85 for Southeastern; ECU had 10 first downs to SOSU’s four; and the Tigers won the time of possession battle by a 19:07 to 10:53 margin.
ECU made a strong defensive stand after the Savage Storm drove to the ECU 4 on the opening drive of the third quarter. Carlos booted a 19-yard field goal that got Southeastern within 17-10 at the 8:37 mark of the third quarter.
After the Tigers went three-and-out, Walker struck again for SOSU. He hauled in an ECU punt and weaved his way through the Tigers punt team and returned the kick 56 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 17-all at the 6:51 mark of the quarter.
The Tigers turned an interception by Tasi Tonuao, a junior from Lacey, Washington, into a score early in the fourth period. Austin-Ramsey connected with Devyn Williams for a 10-yard touchdown pass and a Schmidt PAT kick put the Tigers ahead 24-17 with 9:51 left in the game.
The SOSU special teams unit would strike again, this time in the form of a 30-yard kickoff return by CJ Elkins. A horse collar penalty on the Tigers set up SOSU at the East Central 32.
A pass interference penalty got the Savage Storm close before quarterback Rollin Kinsaul found receiver Devon Blanton in the end zone for a 13-yard score that tied the game at 24-24 with 7:35 left to set up the frantic finish.
The tight game has been the norm for this long rivalry — Saturday was the 101st meeting between the two bitter foes — over the past decade. Since 2007, the ECU-Southeastern contest has been decided by 10 points or fewer. The Savage Storm has won the last four in a row and the Tigers won four straight before that.
Austin-Ramsey finished the game 16-of-32 for 184 yards and three scores but was sacked four times. ECU limited Kinsaul to 10-of-22 passing for 65 yards.
Polk led the SOSU ground attack with 14 rushes for 85 yards. The Savage Storm had six different players with rush attempts.
Benson led the ECU receiving corps with five grabs for 93 yards and the two TDs.
The linebacker combo of Camnik Campbell and Vernon Johnson had eight tackles apiece to pace the Tiger defense.
SOSU linebacker Justin Young had 10 tackles.