Friends since their days on the playground at Pershing Park Elementary, Naashon Hughes knows what Isiah Cowan is capable of.
And Thursday evening, with Cowan’s Ellison Eagles backed up into fourth-and-2 in a do-or-die second overtime possession, Hughes also knew what to expect from his former classmate.
“I knew it was either a pitch or a dive, something to gain positive yards quickly and when I saw the quarterback, I immediately ripped through my block and it was nothing but me and Isiah in space,” Hughes said. “And I play in space.”
Although Cowan had been eating up positive yards all night, the University of Texas-committed linebacker, proved to be a space eater when it mattered most, tackling Cowan in the right flat for a 6-yard loss to give Harker Heights a 25-22 double-overtime win Thursday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“I started to call timeout right at the last second, and I’m glad I didn’t because Naashon was in the right place at the right time and made the tackle,” said Heights coach Mike Mullins.
After taking a 16-0 lead two minutes into the third quarter, the Knights (2-4, 2-1 8-5A) watched as mistakes allowed the winless Eagles (0-6, 0-3) to rally with a 1-yard touchdown run by Cowan and a 6-yard touchdown reception by Caleb Moses over the final 12:58 of regulation to force overtime.
“It was a tremendous effort, a tremendous job by them,” Ellison coach Buddy McBryde said of his players. “I think we out-played Heights, we just made more mistakes then they did and it cost us.”
But in overtime, Heights’ beleaguered offense responded, answering a 3-yard touchdown run by Cowan (40 carries for 124 yards) on Ellison’s opening possession with a 6-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Troy Smith to rarely-used receiver Trey Lockhart.
Backed into third-and-goal, Smith rolled left looking for something downfield. Seeing nothing open, the speedy quarterback thought briefly about running for it before seeing Lockhart waving his hands in the back of the end zone.
“Luckily my receiver Trey Lockhart was in the back of the end zone throwing his hands up and I see him — touchdown,” said Smith, who was 3-for-3 passing in the second half and overtime to finish 3-of-6 for 47 yards on the night.
But, with the chance to put the game away after Ellison missed the extra point following its touchdown, Heights kicker Austin Rhoden shanked the extra point try to the left of the uprights to force another overtime period.
Getting the ball first this time, the Knights nearly scored twice if not for a fumble by Terance Goodwin at the 4 on a wide-open run and a false start penalty that negated a 2-yard scoring dive by Tyler Brown.
But after a second false start moved Heights from a 4th-and-goal from the ½-yard mark to the 5, Rhoden redeemed himself with his second 22-yard field goal of the game to go ahead 25-22.
“Kids just had to gut it out, and, you know, it went our way,” Mullins said.
Seeing his first action of the year after breaking his left leg during the preseason, junior tailback Marcus Anderson II led the Knights with 116 yards on 19 carries, including touchdown runs of 6 and 18 yards to put Heights ahead 16-0 early in the third quarter. Goodwin, who fumbled twice including one with 6 ½ minutes left in the fourth to set up Ellison’s game-tying score, added 58 yards on 11 carries.
“That’s the thing about (Anderson), he’s so strong, but then Terance gave us the speed factor, and it’s good to have two of them back there,” Mullins said.
After Anderson’s second touchdown, the Eagles put together a 20-play, 87-yard drive that took up nearly 9 minutes and capped by a 6-yard fade from Trenton Jones to Moses in the right corner of the end zone. The pair connected again for the first of two 2-point conversions to force the extra periods.
Ellison scored on three consecutive drives in the fourth quarter and overtime, but when it mattered, the Knights defense made the only stop it needed.
“As a defense, we knew it was going to come down to us eventually, so when we got our opportunity, we made a play,” Hughes said.