By Bruce Guthrie

By Bruce Guthrie

Special to The Commercial

McGEHEE — The Farmington Cardinals wanted to take advantage of their passing game in the second half of their state quarterfinal at McGehee Friday night. Although they didn’t get off to a great start, no one could argue with a 26-23 win thanks to a pair of touchdown passes from Deon Clay and a big pass play to set up the winning score..

Down 23-19 with nearly 4 1/2 minutes to play in the game, Clay found a wide-open Matt Brackett down the middle of the field. Brackett ran down to the 5, where he was horse collared, adding another 2 1/2 yards onto the play. Running back Jared Martin fought his way from there on the next play, giving the Cardinals a lead they would not relinquish thanks to a fourth-down stand at the end of the game.

“It was the oldest pass play in football,” said head coach Mike Adams. “The passing game saved our rear ends tonight.”

The Owls scored twice in just a little over 3 1/2 minutes starting late in the first quarter.

After taking over on downs at the 50, the Owls marched down the Farmington half of the field using just seven plays and running 3:22 off the clock.

Running back David Shepard’s 14-yard run over the right side gave McGehee an 8-0 lead after the two-point conversion.

Farmington could not answer on its ensuing possession, and after going three-and-out was forced to punt. That’s when Steven King blew through the Farmington line and blocked the Cardinals’ punt.

The ball rolled out of bounds at Farmington’s 14.

McGehee’s quarterback Deondrai Haynes chewed up needed just two plays to find the endzone. His 13-yard keeper put the Owls in command after the two-point conversion.

The Owls were content with kicking the extra point but missed. A Farmington penalty, however, gave McGehee a closer two-point try which it converted, putting the Owls up 16-0.

It looked as if the Owls would carry that lead in the locker room at the half, but a bad punt snap wound up in Farmington’s possession at McGehee’s 10. On fourth down with just 1 second on the clock, Clay found Brackett for a 7-yard touchdown pass. The two-point try failed.

The Cardinals came out of halftime throwing. In their opening drive, however, there was no passing success. Three passes in their opening second-half possession yielded just 1 yard, forcing a quick punt.

But the Cards caught a break. The McGehee punt returner muffed the catch and Farmington took over on McGehee’s 29. But the Owls’ defense stiffened allowing a minus-1 on Farmington’s next four plays.

Clay didn’t stop passing and it paid off. With 6:39 to go in the third he hit receiver Jonathan Sims in the end zone from 8 yards out to cut McGehee’s lead to 16-13. Clay set up the scoring play with his legs when he ran 34 yards on the opening play of the drive from his own 45.

Farmington took the lead nearly 2 minutes later, when Spencer Boudrey intercepted a Haynes pass and ran 39 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but Farmington had its first lead at 19-16.

McGehee kidnapped momentum on its next drive thanks to a 30-yard touchdown pass on a throwback from Haynes to Shepard on fourth-and-10 on the fourth quarter’s first play.

It was the second fourth-down conversion of the drive, the first coming on a fake punt taken by Keontis Walker for 22 yards down to the Farmington 30.

But Clay’s arm would answer with the winning score.

The loss snaps the Owls’ 10-game winning streak. Their last loss was in the season opener at Stuttgart.

“Not too many words that come to mind right now,” said McGehee head coach Marcus Haddock. “The word proud is not big enough for what I am for these kids right now. They played above their heads tonight and played above their heads all year long.”