Prairie View 60, Prentiss Christian 54
Prairie View may one day look back on the final play of Friday night's game against Prentiss Christian (Miss.) as the defining moment in a special season.
Layton Woodard came down with a 36-yard touchdown catch between two defenders as the final horn sounded to help the Spartans keep their playoff hopes alive with a 60-56 victory.
Trailing 56-54 and facing fourth-and-12, Prairie View coach Bo Barton didn't like what he saw and signaled for a timeout.
Returning from the sideline conference, Denman was flushed out of the pocket by the Knights' Jerod Dungan. Denman then planted and threw back to his right to Woodard, who jumped up and made the catch in double coverage four yards deep in the endzone.
To make the script perfect, Denman and Woodard, a pair of seniors, made their dreamlike play on homecoming.
With the victory, the Spartans (7-1, 3-1) set up a showdown with defending state champion Briarfield for sole possession of second place on Friday night at Dr. E.D. Baker Field.
Against Prentiss, Prairie View stormed back from a 38-24 halftime deficit to regain the lead, 46-45, late in the third quarter.
It was back-and-forth throughout the fourth quarter, with the Knights going up 56-54 on Cade Stauter's 34-yard field goal with 50 seconds remaining.
Prairie View began the game-winning drive from the 20 after the kickoff rolled into the endzone for a touchback.
Going right to work, Denman hit Austin Carroll across the middle for 33 yards at the Prentiss 47.
Jaheem Brown then took a screen pass 39 yards to the 8, but a holding penalty backed the Spartans up to the 34.
Two incomplete passes later, Dungan dropped Denman for a loss of two to bring up fourth-and-12, setting the stage for the theatric finish.
Prairie View began its first possession from the minus-45 when Tyler Peters knocked the ball loose from a Prentiss running back and Jacob Farrar made the recovery.
On third-and-two from the Prentiss 47, Brown blasted straight up the middle for the first of the game's many touchdowns. Sixteen to be exact. Austin Carroll's conversion put the Spartans up 8-0.
Prentiss tied the game at 8 on Wade Watkins' 45-yard TD run and Robert Buckley's 2-point carry.
After a Prairie View turnover and a Prentiss punt, the Spartans started their third series from the minus-42.
Denman and Woodard needed just one play to get the Spartans back on the board, teaming up for a 58-yard TD strike. Denman finished the evening 10-of-17 for 236 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 119 yards and three more scores. Woodard reeled in six passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 57 yards and one TD on three carries.
Denman's 2-point run upped the Spartans' lead to 16-8 late in the first quarter.
Prentiss tied the game at 16 early in the second frame as Watkins scored from three yards out on a pitch to the left side. Watkins also tacked on the convert.
Covering the kickoff at their own 43, the Spartans required just three plays to cover 57 yards.
Denman kept for 24 yard, Brown carried for 14 and Denman took it in from 19 yards out. Denman's 2-point run made it 24-16 with 8:03 left before the homecoming court was introduced.
The remainder of the second half belonged to the Knights (4-4, 2-3).
Watkins' 37-yard kickoff return to the Prairie View 38 set up Buckley's 5-yard touchdown run. Dalton Magee's 2-point pass to Layton Hudson knotted the score at 24.
Buckley's interception on Prairie View's next offensive snap put the Knights' offense back on the field at their own 31.
Six plays later, on third-and-10, Watkins took the snap at quarterback and lateraled to Magee, who fired a 57-yard TD pass to Hudson as the visitors took their first lead, 31-24.
Prairie View fumbled the ball away at its own 14 on its ensuing series. Prentiss capitalized immediately on Magee's touchdown pass to Watkins to build a 38-24 halftime advantage.
Starting the second half on offense, the Spartans set up at their own 35 when the kickoff bounced out of bounds.
Woodard darted 27 yards on a reverse to jump start a seven-play drive which culminated with Brown's 14-yard TD reception.
Prentiss was back on the board two plays later. Watkins broke off runs of 24 and 33 yards to help the Knights build a 45-30 spread.
Refusing to go away, the Spartans countered with a seven-play, 65-yard drive, highlighted by Carroll's 22-yard pickup to the 8-yardline. Denman punched it in on second-and-goal from the 5 and also ran the deuce to draw Prairie View within 45-38 at 3:58 in the third quarter.
Prentiss took over at its own 45 on the kickoff prior to a crucial stop by the Spartans.
Carroll defused a first down running play for a loss of two, and Peters and Farrar combined for another 2-yard loss to bring up fourth-and-eight. The fourth down pass fell incomplete, enabling the Spartans to take over on downs at the plus-47.
Three plays later, Woodard ran into the endzone from nine yards out. Carroll's 2-point run put the Spartans back in front 46-45 with 55 ticks left in the third period.
Prairie View's lead was short-lived. Hudson's 66-yard reception on the first play of the fourth quarter, followed by Magee's 2-point pass to Cass Jones, gave the Knights the upper hand, 53-46.
Prairie View reclaimed the lead with a five-play, 54-yard drive. Woodard and Carroll carried for 16 and 25 yards, respectively, to set up first-and-goal at the 7. Using pulling right guard Gage Riles as a shield, Denman took it in from there. Carroll's 2-point run put the Spartans ahead 54-53.
Prentiss started its final drive from the 21 and methodically advanced inside the 10.
On third-and-two from the 9, Brown stonewalled Magee short of the first down yardage to bring up fourth-and-one. After being flagged for a false start, the Knights settled for Stauter's go-ahead, 34-yard field goal on the 14th play of the drive.
Prairie View had only 50 seconds left to pull off a miraculous comeback. As it turned out, that was exactly how much time the Spartans needed.