On Friday, the Indians finally broke through that barrier.
Taj Griffin ran for the game-winning touchdown with 2:20 to play as McEachern rallied from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to edge Langston Hughes 22-21 in the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
“We talked about getting past the second round only three times in the last 21 years,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “So we were talking about starting a new chapter in McEachern history and our guys came through.”
Next, McEachern (10-2) will visit Collins Hill, which defeated Alpharetta 48-0.
With 6:50 left in the game, the Indians trailed
21-9 and appeared on the verge of elimination.
But Bailey Hockman started the shift in momentum with a 38-yard completion to Artise Clark, and a 21-yard touchdown pass to Malik Williams to pull the Indians within 21-16 with 3:23 to go.
After forcing Hughes into a three-and-out, the Indians got the ball back at the Panthers’ 42 with just under 3 minutes left. Four plays later, on third-and-15, Hockman completed a pass down the sideline to Clark for a 29-yard gain and a key first down with 2:37 remaining.
But Griffin just needed one more play. The junior running back took the handoff and shed multiple tacklers on his way to an 18-yard touchdown run. McEachern failed to convert the 2-point conversion, but more importantly, the Indians regained the lead for the first time since their 3-0 advantage at the half.
“Taj had that look like, ‘Coach I got this, I got this,’” Kyle Hockman said.
McEachern forced the Panthers to turn over the ball on downs on the next possession, and the Indians went on to drain most of the clock before punting it back to Langston Hughes with less than 20 seconds left.
“Just got to give all the credit to God,” Hockman said. “He was with us all the way. We’ve been talking about the mustard seed of faith. Our kids never gave up an inch and kept that faith in each other. I’m just so proud of them.”
Alizee Chubbs had a 2-yard touchdown run from the Wildcat formation in the fourth quarter.
Langston Hughes’ Keion Davis caught a touchdown pass and ran for another, and Kenny Moxey ran for a score for the Panthers (10-2).
In the first half, McEachern squandered two opportunities to put points on the board and had to settle for just a 3-0 lead.
As a result of an interception by Christian Ford, Dennis Dominguez made a 25-yard field goal with 3:35 left in the first quarter. The senior missed tries from 44 and 35 yards.
But the defense held the Panthers’ offense to two first downs and out of McEachern territory.
“The defense played awesome all night,” Hockman said. They just kept us in the ball game.”