Twice the door swung open for the Daniel Lions in their attempt to upset the No. 1-ranked South Pointe Stallions in the second round of the Class AAA Upper State playoffs on Friday.
But as quickly as the opportunities came with the Stallions ahead by 6 in the final quarter, they were gone in a flash and South Pointe (11-1) held on for a 20-14 win.
The mumbles started with 7:07 remaining after Jadeveon Clowney scored his second touchdown of the game on a 3-yard run. It broke a 14-14 tie and with Landon Ard in to kick the extra point, the Stallions would surely at least have a comfortable 7-point lead.
The kick was blocked, leaving the Lions with enough time to score, convert an extra point and depend on a defense that had given a solid performance to shock the state.
Next up were the plays South Pointe made to hold on for the win and a third-round home game next Friday against Greenville, a 51-7 winner over Seneca.
Ard boomed the kickoff into the end zone for a touchback and Daniel stalled at its 25, needing 5 yards on fourth down for at least another three plays. Lions coach Randy Robinson decided to gamble and give it a try with a bit of trickery.
David Gammon dropped into punt formation but rather than kick, he rolled right and threw a pass to tight end Hunter Cushing, who nearly made the catch. But South Pointe's Tray Mackey, a 5-foot-8 defensive back, picked up the 6-3 Cushing and knocked the ball away with a leaping swat.
"That was a big play,'' South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll said. "We saw the fake punt on video and when we saw coach Robinson talking to his players, then to the player the pass was going to, we felt the fake was on.
"It was a good play, but we got a lot of good plays from our defense. Daniel has a great team with some great players. One is going to Kentucky to play football and another to Clemson. And No. 21 (CJ Davidson) is going to Clemson to run track.''
The Lions' second opportunity came on South Pointe's second play after holding Daniel on downs. Stallions quarterback Devin Pearson fumbled and Deshawn Williams recovered.
Daniel (7-5) faced another fourth down and needed 5 yards for a first. This time the Lions shed the trick play and lined up. Quarterback Tevin Robinson ran left on a keeper but came up a yard short after a jarring tackle by Gerald Dixon.
"We had to go for it both times,'' coach Robinson said. "It was getting late and we had to make something happen ... couldn't waste time if we wanted to win. What I regret most is that we didn't play as well this season as we have in our last two games. If we had, we might have been playing closer to home tonight.''
Ard started the third quarter with a kickoff into the end zone for another touchback, Daniel's Davidson lined up in the "Wildcat'' and took it to the house, 80 yards down the right sideline and past the Lions' bench for a touchdown.
But South Pointe bounced right back and scored on a Pearson TD run from the Lions' 16.
The drama could have been avoided if not for a Stallions' penalty late in the opening quarter. After a pair of fair catch interference penalties, Neely fielded the third punt at the Lions' 49.
Neely twisted and turned his way to a touchdown, but it was called back because of a blocking in the back penalty. Ard was summoned to attempt a 37-yard field goal that was plenty long enough, but sailed wide left.
"I was excited about the punt return and didn't realize there was a penalty,'' Neely said.
"That's football, and what can you say? You don't look for excuses, but we might have been too pumped up tonight.''
SOUTH POINTE 20
SP - Jadeveon Clowney 2 run (Landon Ard kick)
D - Antonio Cannon 11 pass from Tevin Robinson (David Gammon kick)
D - CJ Davidson 80 run (Gammon kick )
SP - Devin Pearson 16 run (Ard kick)
SP - Clowney 3 run (kick blocked)
RUSHING - Daniel: Calvin Owens 11-22, Davidson 10-138, Robinson 8-13, Chris Richardson 1-2. South Pointe: Pearson 12-27, Malik Jamerson 5-35, JaRyan Jennings 1-10, Jalen Massey 12-56, Montay Crockett 6-56, Clowney 11-36.
PASSING - Daniel: Robinson 4-10-47-1. South Pointe: Pearson 1-4-40-0, Jennings 1-1-39-0.
RECEIVING - Daniel: Davidson 3-36, Cannon 1-11. South Pointe: Tay Hicklin 2-79.
RECORDS: South Pointe 11-1; Daniel 7-5.