ORANGEBURG -- Blackville-Hilda's Desmond Brown plunged into the hole and emerged through a tackle, looking for the left sideline. Great Falls' Terrence Jeter lunged after him, stretching every muscle of his body trying to knock Brown out of bounds.
Jeter missed by a hair and Brown hit his stride, pumping his legs into fifth gear and spotting the end zone. The ball, representing all of Great Falls' state championship hopes, was tucked safely under his arm.
The ball never came out until Brown crossed the goal line. When it finally hit the ground, the Red Devils' chances went with it.
"A couple of busts on a couple of plays, when you're in a game like this, the team that makes the fewest is going to win," Great Falls coach Kenny Schofield said. "We just couldn't make a stop on a couple of plays."
The Red Devils fell 14-7 to Blackville-Hilda on Friday for the Class A Division II state championship, their offense continuously stuffed and their proud defense gashed for 251 yards by an aggressive running attack.
The Fighting Hawks (11-3) rallied from a 7-0 deficit on the Devils' first possession and wore down Great Falls' defense, denying the Devils their first state title since 1991.
Great Falls hung with Blackville-Hilda and was that close to winning several times, but a crucial penalty or a dropped ball or some other slip-up was always in the way. The Devils (11-3) had two cracks to tie or win it in the game's final 3:50, but once A.J. Squirewell's desperation heave was intercepted, the Hawks flew out of O.C. Dawson Stadium with the title.
"I thought both teams played a really good game," Schofield said. "I thought it was two good defenses."
Great Falls struck first, using a rare play-action call on the game's first series. Gaither Bumgardner faked a handoff on a receiver reverse and had all the time he desired to toss a 41-yard spiral to Terrell Hutchinson. With less than three minutes gone, the Red Devils led 7-0 and looked poised to run Blackville-Hilda out of the stadium.
But the Fighting Hawks lived up to their name, turning two Great Falls chances into zero points.
The Devils drove on their next possession, but Kyle Heffner missed a 40-yard field goal wide right. He wasn't too bummed because he'd been hit after his kick, giving Great Falls an automatic first down and another chance.
Despite the good field possession, Great Falls couldn't convert and sent Heffner back on the field for a 33-yard try. That attempt got tipped at the line and fell well short.
Great Falls' defense didn't let the disappointment linger, stuffing the Hawks time and again and not allowing a first down through the first quarter. Blackville-Hilda bided its time, waiting for the big play to break.
It happened in the second quarter, Darrell White keeping the ball on third-and-six and blasting through a huge hole. The 75-yard scoring sprint threatened to tie the game but Jeremy Simpson broke through the line and blocked Wayne Hutto's point-after, setting the score at 7-6 until the half.
The second half began and Great Falls continued what it started, hammering the Hawks at the line and daring them to throw. Blackville-Hilda only attempted two passes all day -- each was incomplete -- but as the game wore on, the running game finally found a lane.
The Hawks harassed Bumgardner unmercifully and shut down the Devils' running game and when they forced a three-and-out just before the fourth quarter began, eyed their biggest chance. Facing a third-and-one at the Devils' 47-yard-line, Brown broke loose on his touchdown run.
The Devils began driving, but a bad snap at the Hawks' 31 cost them 3 yards and forced a punt. Taking the ball with 3:50 to go and 75 yards to cover, Bumgardner was sacked and landed on his shoulder, forcing him out of the game in a possession that turned into another punt.
Great Falls' defense made one last stand, forcing the Hawks to punt again with 1:15 to play. But as the Devils pulled out their last-ditch plays and prepared to go to work without their starting QB, Blackville-Hilda played deep and waited for the pass.
Squirewell's heave was picked off by Erick Bradley and the Hawks ran out the clock.
End of season, end of dream.
But not end of hope.
Great Falls bid farewell to just six seniors, and while it hurt to lose the championship game after a grand 11-win season, Schofield was optimistic about the future. Bumgardner, wincing and holding his shoulder as he stood in line to receive his runner-up medal, recognized the seniors' contributions before turning to next year.
"I wish we could have got it for them. I just hope they know this football team's not going to be the same without them," Bumgardner said. "Now we take a week off and get back in for weight training."
Schofield comforted his distressed team and told them to pick their heads up. The Red Devils were one of only four Class A teams in the state to still be playing football Friday, and that counted for something.
"We played very hard," Schofield said. "We definitely wanted to win it and it bothers us not to win it, but we know that our young men are champions today."
Blackville-Hilda 0 6 0 8 -- 14
Great Falls 7 0 0 0 -- 7
View video highlights for this game at