If you like exciting football, it doesn't get any better than the Carey High School's incendiary road showdown last Friday with the Mackay Miners.
When the smoke cleared, the Panthers were on top 20-14, but it took a last minute miracle to steal the game from the always tough Mackay football machine.
Here's the scenario: Game tied 14-14. Mackay threatening on the Panther 15. Five seconds left. The Miners pass to the end zone for the win. Carey's D.J. Simpson intercepts five yards deep and runs 105 yards for a touchdown. Game over.
"Time ran out and that was it—there was celebration—we were lucky to pull it out," said Carey coach Lane Kirkland.
Carey (6-1), last year's state 1A Division II eight-man football champion, was bumped into second place in the state prep polls behind Garden Valley. The Miners were ranked #5 last week, but fell out of the top five with the loss.
"It always hard to play over there," said Kirkland. "They have a lot of pride in their program, and we gave them all the confidence they needed."
Kirkland was referring to six Carey turnovers, four of them fumbles and the other two interceptions.
"It was closer than it needed to be," he said. "We kind of shot ourselves throughout the game on turnovers."
But Carey's defense played great.
"The defense really did a good job," Kirkland said. "They held strong and kept them from scoring in the second half."
Sophomore Trevor Peck led the Panther defense with 18 tackles.
Kirkland said his offense moved the ball well, but turnovers made it difficult to put together scoring drives. Running back Connor Rivera scored one touchdown and Simpson scored the other two.
Simpson, who doubles as quarterback on offense, didn't have one of his more stellar throwing performances, completing only six passes.
"Our hands were tired just a little bit," Kirkland said. "D.J. wasn't able to throw the ball well. He's got something going on with his arm. But he'll be all right."
But Simpson was the hero of the game nonetheless. Ironically, his second interception of the game came on the same play as his second touchdown—the game winner.
Kirkland said Simpson told him after the game that when he caught the interception and started down field all he saw was a "wall of white," the color worn by Mackay. But superb blocking by his teammates and adroit footwork by Simpson cleared the wall by about Carey's 40-yard line and then it was just a footrace to the end zone with no seconds on the clock.
"That's when the smoke started coming out of him and he poured it on." Kirkland said.
Despite all the turnovers, Kirkland said his players "really kept their heads."
"It was a great win; I've never seen anything like that," Kirkland said.
The Panthers play next at home Friday against the Murtaugh Red Devils. Game time is 7 p.m.