Special to The Index-Journal
Emerald High School football coach Mike Clowney lectures that a team is a unit: When one man goes down, another steps in and fills the void. There is no expectation of a drop-off in production.
But most Vikings fans would have been hard-pressed before the season to search the depth chart three and four quarterbacks deep to find shining stars who could help their team pull out a last-minute victory.
Enter third-string quarterback Hunter Davis and fourth-string quarterback Eric Spencer. The two sophomores found themselves needed in a tense and critical moment Friday night at Frank Hill Stadium, and their efforts helped Emerald (1-2 overall) secure its first victory of the season, a thrilling 42-39 win over Chapman High School.
Davis, a transfer from Cambridge Academy, was called into action on third down at the Chapman 35-yard line with 2 minutes, 7 seconds left in the game and his team trailing 39-35. Starting Emerald quarterback Hakeem Freeman, whom has been replacing injured first-string quarterback Zane Newton, injured his leg on second down and had to leave the game. The Vikings were driving and had the momentum, but the injury looked like it might leave Emerald in a dire situation.
Freeman had been stellar. He was 11 of 17 for 219 yards, with no interceptions, three passing touchdowns and two rushing TDs.
Davis confidently trotted onto the field and went straight to work. He dropped back in the pocket and threaded a beautiful 27-yard pass to A.J. Jones with less than two minutes to play to put Emerald at the Panthers’ 8-yard line. After losing a yard on a keeper, Davis then found Antonio Gray open for a 7-yard pass to put the Vikings on Chapman’s 2-yard line with 57 seconds left.
“When he (Freeman) got hurt, I was ready,” Davis said.“It was nerve-wracking, but the coaches helped me pull through. They just told me to go out there and have fun.
“I was nervous, but you’ve got to look confident because, if you are the quarterback, you are the leader of the team.”
The Vikings then turned to Spencer, who took the ball out of the shotgun and bolted into the end zone, pumping his fists as he crossed the goal line for the winning score.
“He (Clowney) knew I could punch it in there to get a touchdown,” said Spencer, who notched his first ever varsity score.“I’ve been wanting it so bad. When I get going, I feel like I can’t get tackled. I just push it all the way.”
Chapman (1-2) tried to mount a final rally, but Jones intercepted Chapman quarterback Gray Ramsey’s pass to end the game.
“It’s disappointing that we didn’t win, but we have to look at the bright side of our offense,” Ramsey said.“We played pretty good. Our defense can play better than they did tonight, and we know they will come out next week and do better.”
The statistics told a different story from the final score. Chapman racked up 20 first downs, 263 yards rushing and 192 yards passing. Panthers running back Reggie Davis had 202 yards on 30 carries. But the Vikings used big plays to combat Chapman’s impressive drives – with the tone being set on Emerald’s first possession, when Dee Parks scored on a 60-yard pass from Freeman.
Chapman controlled most of the clock with its long drives, but the Vikings would humble them by coming back and making it look easy offensively with big plays.
Emerald had six players – Parks, Josh Bovill, Jones, Gray, Reggie Haskins and Billy Pooser – with receptions. Gray led with six catches for 93 yards and a touchdown.
“To get this first win and get it behind you ... hopefully we can move on from here,” Clowney said.
Haskins scored on a 30-yard pass from Freeman, and Freeman scored on two runs of 6 yards.
Bovill also had two conversion runs, and Jeremy Tommie made a pair of PATs.
Clowney said he is proud of his players for “picking up the fact that if somebody goes down (with an injury), somebody else has got to come in and pick up the slack.”