Randall Lee scored his second touchdown Friday night with 14 seconds remaining as Red Bank rallied for the third time to continue its mastery of neighborhood rival Hixson, 26-22.
Having earlier trailed 2-0 and 15-6, the Lions were behind 22-19 in the District 6-AA game before Lee scooped up a fumble at the Hixson 14 with less than 30 seconds remaining. Two plays and 16 seconds later - with the Lions having no timeouts remaining - he crashed over for the deciding score.
"It was two teams making mistakes and big plays - two really good football teams - and they had the ball last," Hixson coach Houston White said. "We fought them toe-to-toe and we're not walking off with our heads hanging down. I still think we're the better team. You can't expect to fumble twice inside your own 20, but you have to credit them for taking advantage."
Two undefeated teams battled to a 6-2 halftime score before big plays really took over.
Clarencio Holmes, who had 205 rushing yards, put Hixson ahead 9-6 with a 26-yard run. Then quarterback Justin Mathieson, who gained 142 yards, put the Wildcats up 15-6 with a 66-yard sprint.
Red Bank (4-0, 2-0) closed to within two on Niquia McDuffie's 6-yard run six seconds into the final quarter, and Lee's first TD - after a fumble recovery by DeMarcus Bynum at the Hixson 16 - put the Lions up 19-15. Hixson came right back with 6:03 to play on a 37-yard run by Holmes. It set the stage for the Lions' miraculous comeback.
Hixson held them once, taking over on downs at its own 14 with 1:27 to play.
Holmes ripped off an 8-yard run, but the ball then was knocked loose by Hagen Wilkey and Lee grabbed it.
"We were going to run one more play and then take a knee," White said, knowing Red Bank was out of timeouts. "That's on me. We might could have run the clock down."
Red Bank coach Tim Daniels' headphones went out during the frenetic second-half shootout. It might have been just as well because of the gut-wrenching tension and his team out of timeouts in the final three minutes.
"We bowed our necks when we had to," Daniels said. "We have a chance, though, to go back to work on a positive note. Hixson is awesome. They say they're going to run it and they do."
Holmes and Mathieson combined for 247 yards.
"I still think we're a better team and I'd like to play them again down the road," White said.
It was Hixson's best showing against the Lions since a 10-7 win in 2004. Since that win they had come no closer than 20 points to the Lions.
Red Bank, held to 148 yards, had to turn to its passing game and McDuffie finished with 170 yards on a 13-of-24 night. Lee was the Lions' leading rusher with 70 yards, and Kameno Watson finished with 77 receiving yards.
"I thought McDuffie played well at times, but I think he also forced some things," Daniels said. "We sat Kameno down last week and he responded this week. Randall needs to keep coming, but he's working hard."