Stephen Baggett finished on the ground in the end zone, his outstretched hands still a couple of feet from where the tipped pass had fallen incomplete.
Beaufort High School and its tight end were that close in the final seconds from shaking loose from a recent slump. But it's another week of work ahead for the Eagles after Ashley Ridge escaped Eagle Stadium with a 35-31 victory Friday.
"I just tell these kids to keep their heads up and keep working hard," Beaufort High coach Mark Clifford said.
Beaufort High (3-5, 0-2 Region 8-AAAA) scored 17 unanswered points during the second half to take the lead. Starting at their own 34-yard line with just under four minutes left, the Eagles had a chance to win it. But after earning a first-and-goal at the Foxes' 10, Beaufort High backtracked.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Island Packet
Alex Gregory's fourth-down pass from the 15 was tipped and fell out of the reach of Baggett, who came back and almost made a play on the ball. The Eagles' two region losses were both decided during the final minute.
The loss spoiled the Eagles' homecoming and a big night from running back JaClay Mixon, who earned the bulk of the carries. The junior rushed for 186 yards on 27 carries and scored twice. He also delivered at linebacker, as Beaufort High's defense slowed Ashley Ridge during the second half.
Eagles receiver Jordan Broussard said Beaufort High would return to running its 11-on-11 drills during practice, to practicing at full speed in hopes of it transferring to Friday nights.
"We knew we needed this win to get in the playoffs," said Broussard, who caught seven passes for 141 yards. "Hopefully, something can happen for us."
Ashley Ridge (6-2, 2-0 Region 8-AAAA) faces region foe Summerville next week with a chance to further strengthen its hold in the league race. Foxes coach Kenny Walker said he thought there could have been less drama Friday.
"I was disappointed, had a chance to put the game out of reach," he said. "Beaufort's resilient."
The Eagles had trouble containing Ashley Ridge running back Romelo Doctor, who had 155 yards rushing by the end of the first quarter and later scored on a 69-yard reception.
At halftime, his team trailing by two touchdowns, Clifford told his offense to be ready to execute, that the Eagles defense had played well during the second half and would again Friday.
Beaufort High forced punts on three of Ashley Ridge's four possessions during the second half. But Doctor's touchdown catch proved enough for the Foxes.
The Eagles have dropped five of their past six games.
"The kids are fighting," Clifford said. "We're just going to have to have that workman-like attitude and go back to work."