As the football slipped through Augusta senior Chaydon Carter’s hands on fourth down, he was devastated. He knew his season was finished.
“I seen it to my hands. I took my eye off it for one second to see where the sideline was, and it went right through me,” Carter said. “I lost the game for my team.”
As Andover Central junior Jordan Birch watched the ball fall to the ground, an incomplete pass, he was elated.
“I was right there,” Birch said. “I thought he was going to catch it for sure. It went right through his hands.”
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Andover Central ran the final minute off the clock as it defeated Augusta 38-33 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Class 4A-Division I playoffs. Andover Central (6-4) will play at Buhler (8-2) next Friday.
Andover Central coach Tom Audley had preached to his team that it needed to be tougher in order to have its first winning season since 2011.
But the Jaguars also needed persistence to win their first playoff game since 2008.
“We weren’t perfect tonight,” Audley said. “Our kids play hard. We had some down minutes, but they kept battling.”
Andover Central had a 14-0 lead when it fumbled the ball at its own 24 early in the second quarter. One play later, Augusta quarterback Dustyn McEachern found Connor Hurst for a 24-yard touchdown.
McEachern had 172 passing yards and 114 rushing. He threw for four touchdowns, including a 21-yard pass to Hurst midway through the third quarter to get within 31-27.
Andover Central took an 11-point lead when the Jaguars faked a punt midway through the fourth. Facing fourth and nine from the Augusta 35, Tyler Harris threw a pass to quarterback Peyton Huslig for a 22-yard gain.
Four plays later Birch scored his third touchdown with 5:54 to go and the 38-27 lead.
Birch finished with 186 rushing yards on 36 carries.
“What it comes down to is our offense,” said Andover Central senior Kevin Olney, who had an interception in the first half. “We have a very explosive offense. Our offensive line is doing real good.”
Huslig had 207 passing yards and two touchdowns.
But as Augusta had done all game, it answered Andover Central. Desperately needing a touchdown, McEachern connected with Carter for a 31-yard touchdown with 4:58 to go.
Andover Central ran the clock down to less than two minutes when it turned it over on downs at the Augusta 36.
There’s no doubt there was enough time for the Orioles’ offense to score.
“We got that stop on fourth down; I thought we might complete a couple balls and have a chance to make it interesting,” Augusta coach Jason Filbeck said.
But four incomplete passes ended that hope.
The loss hit Augusta (5-5) especially hard because the Orioles have floundered for so long, winning 12 games in the previous eight seasons.
“I’m not good enough with words to tell you,” Filbeck said of his emotions following the loss. “… I’m the new guy coming in, but I know what the seniors have been through. To just get this close to a playoff win at home, it would have been icing on the cake.”
AC — Birch 1 run (Schoonover kick)
AC — Harris 21 pass from Huslig (Schoonover kick)
A — Hurst 24 pass from McEachern (Albright kick)
AC — Birch 2 run (Schoonover kick)
A — Carter 6 pass from McEachern (kick failed)
AC — Schoonover 31 FG
A — Hilt 11 run (Hurst pass from McEachern)
AC — Brown 59 pass from Huslig (Schoonover kick)
A — Hurst 21 pass from McEachern (kick blocked)
AC — Birch 1 run (Schoonover kick)
A — Carter 31 pass from McEachern (run failed)
Rushing — Andover Central, Birch 36-186, Huslig 7-50, Olney 3-8, Brown 3-13. Augusta, McEachern 17-114, Hilt 7-32, Carter 3-33, Hurst 2-5, Gogen 1-(-1).
Passing — Andover Central, Huslig 9-24-207-0, Harris 1-1-22-0. Augusta, McEachern 11-23-172-1.
Receiving — Andover Central, Brown 2-78, Parnell 4-70, Harris 3-59, Huslig 1-22. Augusta, Hurst 4-87, Carter 2-37, Howerton 2-17, Kolitska 1-15, Jackson 1-9, Hilt 1-7.