ATHENS, Tenn. - The fourth-down pass from Corbin Powers settled into the hands of Dre Hall with 44 seconds to go, pulling McMinn County to within a point.
The Cherokees tried for two. This time, the pass sailed a little high, allowing Ooltewah to end its season with a 36-35 win, a share of the District 5-AAA championship and its top spot for the playoffs.
The Owls will learn today of their playoff fate. Coach Mac Bryan said he hopes they get a home game but "it's too hard to follow all that stuff." The Cherokees ended their season at 4-6.
Ooltewah sophomore Rashaun Freeman scored two defensive touchdowns -- intercepting a pass in the end zone and returning a fumble 15 yards -- to help alleviate the loss of star running back Desmond Pittman, who is no longer on the team.
"I knew what they were going to do, so I just made a play," Freeman said. "Our line forced the fumble and I had my mind on scoring a touchdown.
Owls quarterback Brody Binder completed 23 of 41 passes for 195 yards, ran for one touchdown and threw for another.
Powers was 26-of-46 for 507 yards with three interceptions, two passing touchdowns and two running scores.
The teams combined to run 142 plays and rack up 834 yards.
"I've never been in a game like this," Freeman said. "It gives us experience and shows that we can come back from adversity."
A fast-paced first half featured 78 plays, 547 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions and one fumble lost. Each team had a turnover on its second offensive snap.
After they settled into their passing offenses, Freeman dove for an interception in the end zone and scored six points for his effort. Powers and Binder traded 1-yard scores.
McMinn County senior Clay Bennett turned a short slant into a 75-yard touchdown, and teammate Trevor Crisp topped that play by snatching a pass tipped by two defenders and one teammate for a 79-yard touchdown. It helped Powers accumulate 269 passing yards in the first half.
Binder led the Owls 38 yards in 36 seconds with a 5-yard pass to Mike Williams tying the game at 21 going into halftime.
Ooltewah seemed to control the third quarter and scored on a 2-yard run by Edward Hays. But Powers sneaked in a second time, and then the Cherokees took the lead on a trick play resulting in a two-point conversion.
Freeman's fumble return put the Owls up five. The two-point connection of Binder to Williams gave them a 36-29 lead.
Powers took the Cherokees 80 yards in 11 plays. His fourth-down pass to Hall on a 15-yard corner route pulled the Cherokees to within one point. The go-ahead two-point try almost worked.
"You could say it came down to one play," Bryan said, "but there were a lot of plays before that."
Contact David Uchiyama at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.