The York Cougars committed five turnovers and trailed by more than three touchdowns with 7:24 left in the third quarter against Rock Hill on Friday.
Rock Hill coach Joe Montgomery knew it wouldn't be that easy, with long-time rival and first-year York coach Bobby Carroll on the other sideline.
The Cougars mounted a furious comeback and had a chance to tie, but a 37-yard field-goal attempt fell short and the Bearcats escaped with a 27-24 victory.
The win improved Rock Hill to 3-0, while York fell to 2-2.
"We gave them a little momentum," Montgomery said. "Once we gave them that momentum we had to fight and scrap to get a win. We're lucky they missed that field goal.
"That's an improved football team, and now they have Bobby Carroll as a head coach."
Rock Hill receivers Jaleel Scott and Jamel Jones combined for three touchdown catches, and Keon Boulware's clutch sack on third-and-nine with 1:42 left led to the missed field goal.
The teams combined for eight turnovers.
"You can't win a game with five turnovers," Carroll said. "I don't care if you're the Indianapolis Colts with Peyton Manning or the Green Bay Packers and that crowd."
York's Lamin Yanseneh intercepted Rock Hill's Corey Wessinger on the opening drive.
Wessinger, however, rattled off four straight completions on the next possession, the last a fade to Scott for a 9-yard touchdown.
The Cougars answered by driving to the Rock Hill 11 before a botched field-goal snap. York blocked a punt for a safety after a stop to cut the lead to 7-2 after one quarter.
Rock Hill's Derrell Bagley picked off York's Spencer Carroll on a tipped pass with 7:11 in the second quarter. Jones delivered the highlight-of-the-night catch two plays later.
Kenterius Hinton lofted a deep ball to Jones, who made the grab, bobbled the ball momentarily and raced down the middle of the field for a 69-yard gain.
Jones finished his work with a 6-yard touchdown catch from Hinton for a 13-2 lead.
"J.J. went up and made a great play," Montgomery said.
Rock Hill's Jeter recovered a fumble on York's next play, and the Bearcats marched to the 1-yard line before calling a timeout on fourth-and-goal with 24.8 seconds remaining.
The Cougars' defense held when Shamel Sanders stone-walled Jonathan Adams at the goal line.
"We didn't get points before halftime," Montgomery said. "That's on me to make better play calls."
Boulware recovered York's third fumble on the second play of the second half, and Wessinger hit Jones for another 9-yard score on yet another fade.
Dre Williams added a two-point conversion at the 7:40 mark for a 21-2 advantage.
Boulware struck again with a 25-yard interception for a touchdown on the Cougars next play.
Three plays, two turnovers and a 13-point swing.
"I told our kids to stay focused," Carroll said. "People have to understand this is, was a broken program. ... But I'm proud of the way our kids played."
Spencer Carroll hit Matt Bostic for a 26-yard score on the next drive, and Reggie McClain's two-point conversion cut Rock Hill's lead to 27-10.
Corey Dover added an interception, and Lee Wright capitalized with a 21-yard score to cut the deficit to 10 with 1:47 left in the third period.
Carroll hit Yanseneh for a 38-yard score with 6:05 remaining, and the Cougars marched to the Rock Hill 12-yard line in 12 plays.
Boulware broke through for the sack, however, and the 37-yard game-tying field goal try fell short.
Boulware didn't even start for the junior varsity team last season.
"We knew we had to stop them," Boulware said.
"I just went crazy and went in and got (the quarterback)."
Crazy is right. A crazy end to a crazy game.
See video below
ROCK HILL 27, YORK 24
RH-Corey Wessinger 9 pass to Jaleel Scott (John David Raad kick)
Y-Safety blocked punt out of end zone
RH-Kenterius Hinton 6 pass to Jamel Jones (Kick failed)
RH-Wessinger 9 pass to Jones (Dre Williams conversion)
RH-Keon Boulware 25 interception return (Kick failed)
Y-Spencer Caroll 26 pass to Matt Bostic (Reggie McClain conversion)
Y-Lee Wright 21 run (Bostic kick)
Y-Carroll 38 pass to Lamin Yanseneh (Bostic kick)
RUSHING -- ROCK HILL: Hinton 7-28, Jonathan Adams 13-3, Alec McCoy 4-6, Wessinger 9-(-5). YORK: Wright 15-60, C.J. Pendergrass 9-45, Carroll 7-14, Corey Dover 1-7.
PASSING -- ROCK HILL: Wessinger 18-25-2, 163 yards; Hinton 3-3-0, 79 yards. YORK: Carroll 14-25-2, 192 yards.
RECEIVING -- ROCK HILL: Jones 7-116, Scott 5-36, Trey Murdock 4-56, Dre Williams 2-20, Adams 2-9, McCoy 1-5 YORK: Bostic 4-60, McClain 4-53, Yanseneh 3-50, Dover 2-33, Wright 1-(-4).
RECORDS: Rock Hill 3-0, York 2-2.