Baylor's football team survived a fourth-quarter scare Thursday night, answering two late touchdowns by Knoxville Catholic with a gutsy drive to earn a 20-17 Division II-AAA East Region win on the road.
After Knox Catholic tied the game on Nicklaus Ivero's 56-yard interception return with 3:31 remaining, Baylor (4-2, 2-2) countered by driving 79 yards to the Fighting Irish 1-yard line, then settling for Josh Weekley's 18-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining.
Baylor had surrendered a fourth-quarter lead last week in a disappointing home loss to Father Ryan.
"The resiliency of our kids was huge," Red Raiders coach Phil Massey said. "It was almost an identical situation as last week, and we could have folded but we didn't, and I'm really proud of the way they fought back and played with a lot of heart. That's the sign of a good team with a lot of character."
Red Raiders running back Elijah Howard, a Knoxville native, ran a career-high 37 times for 237 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown, and quarterback Neyland Jean accounted for 150 total yards and a score. Those two backfield mates accounted for all of Baylor's 387 offensive yards.
"Elijah has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury, but he was a workhorse for us tonight," Massey said. "The offensive line really opened up some big holes for him, and it was good to see him get back to being able to accelerate and have such a big game back in his hometown."
Baylor's defense forced two fumbles and limited the Irish (2-4, 0-3) to 1-of-9 in third-down conversions and 261 total yards.
Emma Vinson held her team's region championship trophy tightly as she celebrated a moment years in the making and a night in which she was a big part of the success.
The Boyd Buchanan senior leader's hat trick helped the Lady Buccaneers to a 4-3 overtime victory over rival Silverdale Baptist Academy for the DII-A East title.
"We have been working towards this moment for four years now," Vinson said. "We started out as a young team and really just built up to this. To see it all come together is the most satisfying feeling."
The winning goal for the Lady Buccaneers (10-4-1) was off a hard strike from in close by senior Sydney Miller in the second 10-minute extra period. Miller's clutch score came just 33 seconds after the Lady Seahawks (10-5-1) tied on a goal by Ella Sullivan.
After an 0-3 start to the season, Boyd Buchanan has fought back and now has three wins over Silverdale this years. Both teams will host during the sectional round next Tuesday.
"This senior group four years ago went winless. Tonight is a culmination of their hard work and belief in one another," Lady Bucs coach Todd Ledbetter said. "I knew tonight was going to be emotional, tense and filled with passion, and I challenged the senior class to step up. They all have been key players for us, and they led the way again."
East Ridge 3, Hixson 2: The Lady Pioneers won the District 8-AA championship as Lucy Lopez scored all three goals. Abbey Lin and Paola Perz scored and Megan Cline had an assist for the Lady Wildcats.
East Hamilton 3, Livingston Academy 1: The Lady Hurricanes advanced to the Class AA state tournament for the fourth straight year with their 25-17, 25-18, 17-25, 25-21 win. McKenna Hayes had 11 kills and two blocks, and Amya Sutton supplied 13 kills, seven digs and three aces in the home sectional victory.
Sale Creek 3, East Robertson 0: The Lady Pathers advanced to the Class A state tournament with a sectional win, 25-11, 25-21, 25-13. Ava Higgins had 15 kills, Lillie Morgan had 13 digs and 12 kills, Shelby Defore had three blocks and Desiree Higgins picked up 22 assists to lead the way.
Heritage 2, Cedartown 0: The Lady Generals won 25-14, 25-12 in the first round of the Region 7-AAAA tournament to improve to 36-1. Kallie Carter and Lauren Francis each had seven kills — Francis with six assists — and Avery Phillips had 16 assists.
Compiled by Stephen Hargis and Patrick MacCoon. Contact Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293 and follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis. Contact MacCoon at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.