Tied 3-all at the end of the first quarter and up only 10-9 at halftime, Kell (12-0) overcame the rainy conditions and scored two touchdowns in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter to pull away for the win and earn its second quarterfinal appearance in four years.
“Any time you can advance in the playoffs, it’s very rewarding,” Kell coach Derek Cook said. “It’s a blessing. Our guys have earned everything we achieved this season — nothing has been given.”
The Longhorns will play Warner Robins (11-1) in next week’s quarterfinal.
Much like the last time Kell reached this stage of the playoffs, a coin flip will determine which of the two No. 1 seeds will host. In 2010, Cook won a coin flip to earn the opportunity to host Statesboro, though the Longhorns ultimately lost the game.
Cook and Warner Robins coach Bryan Way intended to flip a coin this morning at a restaurant off Interstate 75, about halfway between the two schools.
Jay Moxey once again led the way for Kell, rushing for 146 yards on 29 carries.
The teams traded field goals in the first quarter, with Kell’s Cameron Massung kicking one for 28 yards with 7:11 remaining, and Mays’ Jordan Goodlet responding with a 29-yarder to even the score at 3-all with 2:11 left.
Mays (8-4) got a big opportunity when it blocked a Kell punt and recovered the ball on the Longhorns’ 13-yard line with 5:29 remaining in the first half.
The Raiders then took quick advantage, as Randrecous Davis dragged a number of defenders with him into the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown run to give Mays — after missing the point-after — a 9-3 lead with 4:45 left in the first half.
Kell, however, responded on the next offensive series as Cameron Rosendahl threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Bryson Armstrong with 1:00 left in the half. Massung kicked the extra point to give the Longhorns a 10-9 lead that they took into the locker room at halftime.
Kell added to its lead on its first series of the second half as it took over the ball on the 50 after forcing Mays to punt. The Longhorns then used 11 plays to score, when Rosendahl fired a 14-yard scoring strike to Evan Carnes to make it 17-9 with 7:09 remaining in the third quarter.
Carnes scored the next Kell touchdown — this time on the defensive side — as the sophomore intercepted a pass by Mays quarterback Ayinde Russell deep in Raider territory and ran it back 20 yards for the score to push the Longhorns’ advantage to 24-9 with 6:58 left in the third quarter.
Mays came right back on the next series as Davis scored on another 9-yard run to close the gap with 3:28 left in the third quarter.
The Raiders lined up for another point-after, but decided to go for a 2-point conversion after a personal-foul penalty by Kell moved the ball closer to the end zone. But the Longhorns stopped the run attempt and the score remained at 24-15.
Mays could get no closer, as Kell added a safety when Russell was sacked in the end zone with 38 seconds left in the game.
“We stuck to who we are and what we do,” Cook said. “The rain took a little bit away from our throwing game. But Cameron threw the ball pretty well when he had the opportunity and we had some big catches. Our defense played lights-out again.”