By Charles Curcio, Sports Editor
Monday, November 19, 2012 —
It was the day after Thanksgiving last season when Albemarle place kicker Julio Cisneros was put into a pressure situation in only his first year coming over from the soccer team to handle the kicking duties for the Bulldogs.
Having made an extra point that tied that game in double overtime taken away due to penalty, Cisneros’ second attempt was just short of the crossbar.
This year, a more seasoned Cisneros stepped up to the tee and delivered a 32-yard field goal that lifted his Bulldogs to a dramatic 19-18 win over a talented East Columbus Gators squad.
Cisneros delivered for the Bulldogs (13-1) with four minutes left in the game after East Columbus (9-5) took the lead just six minutes before that on a defensive touchdown.
The Bulldogs’ “Oak Tree” Defense faced a tough task Friday night against a Gators’ offense that coming into the game averaged 55.2 points per game in their last five contests.
East Columbus started the game strongly, driving 55 yards in six plays down to the Albemarle 18-yard line, buoyed by a 46-yard run by Nick McClure. Martin Lamas kicked a 33-yard field goal to give the Gators a 3-0 lead.
Albemarle immediately respon-ded on their first possession to retake the lead. Facing third down and nine from the Bulldogs’ 14-yard line, quarterabck Deon Christian ran a play-action pass and found an open Timmie White streaking past the East Columbus defensive backs. White caught the ball, then made a hesitation move past both defenders and finished the 86-yard touchdown pass. Cisnero’s extra point gave the ‘Dogs a 7-3 lead.
The Bulldogs had a chance to extend the lead in the first with another field goal but Cisneros’ effort from 37 yards out was just wide left.
The two teams then exchanged fumbles and the Gators got the ball on their own nine-yard line. Eight plays later East was forced to punt, but were flagged twice for an illegal formation, backing the Gators to their own 11-yard line. As quarterback/punter Ricky Ratliff tried to punt the ball away, Albemarle’s Jay Dockery came streaking around the left side of the line and blocked the kick. The ball sailed through the endzone for a safety.
With momentum on their side, Albemarle got the ball at their own 34-yard line on the ensuing free kick and drove 66 yards in 11 plays, capped off by Kevin McKinney’s 20th touchdown of the season for a 16-3 lead that Albemarle held into the halftime break.
In the second half, the Gators held Albemarle to a three-and-out on the opening possession, then went to their short passing game to find paydirt. East Columbus drove 75 yards in six plays to narrow the deficit on the scoreboard. Tarrin Manning finished the drive from two yards out and a McClure two-point conversion made the score 16-11 in favor of Albemarle.
Special teams and turnovers had been a factor throughout the contest and continued to be in the fourth quarter as well after both teams exchanged the ball several times with no points put up on the board. Each team lost two fumbles in the game, one of which came back to haunt the ‘Dogs.
After a botched punt snap by the Gators gave Albemarle great field position at the East 17-yard line with 9:50 remaining in the game. On the first play from scrimmage, the ball popped up into the air out of the hands of McKinney.
East’s Greg Melvin, who earlier was one Cisneros tackle away from a kickoff return for a score, picked up the ball in stride and scampered 75 yards down the field for the touchdown.
Instead of going for a two-point conversion that would have made it a three-point game, the Gators elected to kick the extra point to make it 18-16 with 9:37 left in regulation.
The two teams exchanged possessions again, with the Bulldogs getting a short field at the Gator 35-yard line after Ratliff’s punt attempt went off the side of his foot.
The Christian-to-White connection hooked up again for 17 yards to put Albemarle in Cisneros’ field-goal range.
Heading onto the field for the attempt, Cisneros talked about what he was feeling at that moment.
“I was remembering last year against Murphy, remembering how it was a disappointment. I couldn’t disappoint my team again,” Cisneros said.
Cisneros calmly stepped up and delivered a perfect kick out of the hands of holder Bryan Blanton, splitting the uprights to give Albemarle a one-point lead with 3:58 left.
East had one last chance and went to their passing game as Ratliff completed back-to-back passes to move the Gators out to midfield.
However, his final pass of the game was picked off by Martinus Crump and Albemarle ran out the clock to seal the victory.
Christian finished three yards short of his best passing game of the season, throwing his 24th TD pass of the season, while White had his best performance of the season with 167 receiving yards on five catches with one score.
“This win says that they won’t quit,” Albemarle’s head coach Danny Akins said.
“They came out and played for 48 minutes. If they get behind, they won’t quit. They believe that they will win the football game. Tonight, we stayed strong.”
The Bulldogs of Albemarle gets a rematch this Friday night at home against another pack of Bulldogs, this one coming down from the Smoky Mountain Conference in the person of Murphy, who beat Rosman on Friday night 52-13 to advance to the 1A Western Regional Finals.
However, according to Akins, another shot at the Murphy Bulldogs was not a goal coming into the East Columbus game.
“Our biggest thing was to get past this game and get an opportunity to play another week. We did not know who we were going to play until after the game anyway so it really does not matter who we play next week,” Akins said.
EC 3 0 8 7 18
A 7 9 0 3 19
EC – Martin Lamas 33 FG, 9:49, 1st
A – Timmie White 86 pass from Deon Christian (Julio Cisneros kick), 7:58, 1st
A – Safety, 9:38, 2nd
A – McKinney 4 run (Cisneros kick), 1:25, 2nd
EC – Tarrin Manning 2 run (Nick McClure run), 8:30, 3rd
EC – Greg Melvin 75 fumble return (Lamas kick), 9:37, 4th
A – Cisneros 32 FG, 3:58, 4th
1st Downs 16 15
Rushing 36-114 42-133
Passing 194 219
C-A-I 12-24-2 8-18-0
Punts 5-25.4 6-37.8
Penalties 10-66 8-65
Fum.-Lst. 5-2 5-2
3rd Down 2-12 5-13
4th Down 2-3 0-0
TOP 24:22 23:38
Rushing: EC – Manning 13-21; McClure 12-58; Ratliff 5-(-4); Young 4-39; Spaulding 1-4; TEAM 1-(-4). A – McKinney 24-92; Christian 10-15; Brown 7-25; Crump 1-1.
Passing: EC – Ratliff 12-24-2, 194 yds. A – Christian 8-18-0, 219 yds, TD.
Receiving: EC – Derrick Young 4-57; Mitchell 3-89; Gresham 2-26; McClure 2-13; King 1-9. A – White 5-167, TD; Brown 2-22; McKinney 1-30.