In the span of 40 fourth-quarter seconds of a hotly contested Homecoming battle Friday night, host Battery Creek experienced the type of crushing lows and exhilarating highs that only October football can deliver.
At the end of those precious seconds, the Dolphins made key plays to complete a second-half rally and hold on to valuable momentum heading into next week's Class 2-A playoff opener.
Already guaranteed a playoff spot heading into the game, Battery Creek increased its winning streak to three games with a high-tension, 35-28 victory over visiting Academic Magnet that saw the Dolphins overcome an early 14-point deficit -- in large part due to one exciting minute in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by a point with just more than six minutes remaining in the game, the Dolphins scored 15 points in less than a minute -- an outburst made all the more impressive in that it was sandwiched around a 90-yard Academic Magnet touchdown that seemed to squash Battery Creek's momentum.
The tipping point came on a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Deandre Johnson, which followed a Stuart Walters 90-yard run that tied the game for Academic Magnet. Walters' scoring run was his third of the game and came just seconds after Yuneek Crittendon had given Battery Creek its first lead of the game on a 1-yard touchdown run.
"Man, you talk about a roller coaster ride. We were up and then down and then back up again," said Battery Creek head coach Jim Shuman. "You have to believe you are going to make plays and overcome adversity, and that is what this team did tonight. That was a good team we beat."
After a shaky first half that saw the Dolphins give up 21 points -- including an Academic Magnet touchdown with less than a second left on an 11-yard pass from Walters to Zac Seeber -- it was a different Battery Creek team in the final 24 minutes.
After halftime, the Dolphins gave up only one score and, by and large, put an end to mistakes that plagued it in the first half. A pair of first-quarter fumbles led to the Raptors' first 14 points.
Crittendon was a huge factor in the Battery Creek rally, scoring 16 second-half points on two scoring runs and a pair of two-point conversions. In fact, Crittendon scored three touchdowns on the evening, serving as the primary ground threat for an offense that threw the ball only a handful of times.
"We challenged the guys at halftime to let them know that they weren't playing up to their potential," Shuman said. "They were really chomping at the bit to get out there in the second half and really played up to their potential. I'm proud of them."
The turnaround in Friday's game mirrors that of Battery Creek's season. After losing its first three games, Battery Creek has won five of its last seven games. In the past three games, the Dolphins have scored 149 points to help navigate a third-place finish in the region.
While the Dolphins' playoff matchup won't be known until today, the reality of the accomplishment is significant considering the struggles the program has had the past several years.
"I really credit our seniors," Shuman said. "After the start we had, there were a lot of doubters, but those kids continued to work hard and were committed to showing our underclassmen how to be successful. We wanted to bring a home playoff game to this community and next week we will."
Battery Creek 35, Academic Magnet 28
BC 0 12 8 15 -- 35
AM 14 7 0 7 -- 28
AM -- Stuart Walters 26 run (Nate Anderson kick).
AM -- Walters 57 run (Anderson kick)
BC -- Yuneek Crittendon 6 run (kick failed).
BC -- DJ Franklin 35 run (conversion failed).
AM -- Walters 11 pass to Zac Seeber (Anderson kick).
BC -- Crittendon 5 run (Crittendon run).
BC -- Crittendon 1 run (Crittendon run).
AM -- Walters 90 run (Anderson kick).
BC -- Deandre Johnson 75 kick return (Mahan kick).