By Stan Sadler

By Stan Sadler


RISON — Rison was unable to convert on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 from the Fountain Lake 9-yard line with a minute left in the game, and the Cobras overcame a 20-14 halftime deficit to defeat the Wildcats, 34-26, in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state playoffs at Wildcat Field Friday night.

The loss ended Rison’s season at 10-3, while Fountain Lake (9-4) advanced to the semifinals.

“I’m proud of the kids but disappointed with the loss,” Rison head coach Clay Totty said. “We fought to the end.”

Fountain Lake grabbed a 34-20 lead with 7:32 left in the game when Andrew Davis intercepted Juan Jones’ pass near midfield and returned it for a touchdown. Jones had dropped the snap from center and threw his pass in desperation when the ‘Cats faced third and 20 at their own 26.

Dale Smith ran over a two-point conversion to give Fountain Lake the 14-point advantage.

“That was pretty tough,” Totty said, talking about the interception return for a touchdown that gave the Cobras a two-touchdown cushion. “But that one play didn’t beat us. Juan came back and hit a post route for a touchdown. He did a good job all night for us.”

Facing second-and-16 from their own 36 after Fountain Lake’s TD, Jones found Zuntario Oliver across the middle and connected with the wide receiver on a perfect pass for a 64-yard touchdown strike to get Rison back in the game. However, a bad snap on the PAT attempt left Rison in an eight-point hole, 34-26, with 6:34 to go in the game.

Forcing a three-and-out for the Cobras, the Wildcats got the ball back at their own 28 with 4:28 remaining. After picking up a couple of first downs, Rison’s Quanterio Heath took the ball from Shelton Smith on a lob pass for a 28-yard gain to the Fountain Lake 18. A five-yard penalty against the Cobras left Rison with a first-and-5 from the 13. But after reaching the 9 Jones, on a quarterback sneak, was held for no gain, and then Jerry Marshall was tackled at the line of scrimmage with 56 seconds remaining to end Rison’s chances.

Rison opened the scoring in the game when Marshall swept the right side on a 37-yard touchdown scamper with 9:44 left in the first period. Yves Buehler added the first of two PAT kicks to make it 7-0.

The Cobras responded with a 54-yard scoring drive, capped by quarterback Michael Pope’s two-yard run with 4:58 gone in the opening period. Smith ran across a two-point conversion to put Fountain Lake on top, 8-7.

A 26-yard pass from Jones to Heath gave the Wildcats a first down at the Cobras’ 18 on their next offensive possession. But Rison could not gain any yardage on three straight runs and Buehler came on to boot a 36-yard field goal to regain the lead for the Wildcats, 10-8, with 3:16 left in the first quarter.

On Fountain Lake’s next series, the Cobras faced a fourth and nine at their own 47. Pope, on a fake punt, passed over the middle to Smith for 15 yards to keep the drive alive. Seven plays later, Davis, on a reverse, zipped 16 yards for a touchdown to put Fountain Lake back on top, 14-10, with just a minute gone in the second period. Rison halted a try for two points to keep the deficit at four points.

Moments later, Rison used a big play to grab its third lead of the game. Coming out of the backfield, Marshall took a short pass from Jones on third-and-5 and raced down the sideline 72 yards for a TD to make it 17-14 with 9:46 to go in the half.

Rison’s defense held Fountain Lake on three downs and got the ball back at the Wildcat 33 following a Pope punt. The Wildcats controlled the ball for the final 7:52 of the half, marching to the Fountain Lake 12, where the drive stalled. On the final snap of the half, Buehler drilled a 28-yard field goal to give Rison a 20-14 advantage at the break.

However, Fountain Lake used the first 7:43 of the third quarter to drive 58 yards for a touchdown, climaxed by Mackenzie Ross’ two-yard scoring plunge. A pass interference penalty against Rison pulled Fountain Lake out of second and long situation to keep the Cobras moving. On a two-point attempt, Ross was halted just short of the goal line to leave the score knotted, 20-20, with 4:17 remaining in the third period.

The Wildcats managed to drive to the Fountain Lake 41 on their first series of the second half before being forced to punt the ball away. Then the Cobras marched 62 yards for a touchdown to take the lead for good. Smith covered the final 26 yards, racing to the end zone untouched to put Fountain Lake ahead, 26-20, with 8:55 to go in the game. Terrell Gray blocked Pope’s PAT kick to keep it a six-point deficit for Rison.

But just over a minute later, Davis made the interception return for a touchdown that put the Cobras in command.