After being run and passed over, around and through by a dynamic offensive unit from Centennial, Mays’ usually smothering defense stood up in the fourth quarter, and the Raiders held on for a 48-41 win at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta.
Mays (11-1) will now face Lee County (11-1) next week in the third round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs. It will be the second consecutive season the teams have met in the post season. Mays defeated Lee County, 35-22, in the second round last year.
But the Raiders, the Region 5 champs, almost didn’t make it out of Round Two. While Mays’ offense was clicking most of the night, Centennial (8-4) – the No. 2 seed from Region 7 – looked unstoppable at times against a Raider defense that averaged yielding less than 10 points per game. But Mays thwarted all three of the Knights’ drives in the fourth quarter to stave off the upset.
The teams went up and down the field on each other, trading scores most of the night. Centennial broke a 35-35 tie with 1:29 left in the third quarter when freshman receiver Julian Nixon beat his defender on a slant route, then broke two tackles and sprinted 24 yards into the end zone. A bad snap on the point after attempt kept the score 41-35.
Mays appeared to catch a bad break when the Raiders’ return man slipped down at his own 7-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. But on the first play from scrimmage, sophomore Tyree Nelson took a handoff over the left side, followed his blockers, hit the far sideline and outraced the Centennial secondary for a 93-yard touchdown run. The Raiders were penalized for illegal procedure on the point after attempt. But senior kicker Chloe Robinson shook it off and drilled the 25-yard kick to give Mays a 42-41 lead with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter.
Centennial drove deep into Raider territory on its next possession. But a holding penalty killed the Knights’ momentum and they turned the ball over on downs at the Mays 10-yard line. After the Knights forced Mays to punt, they took possession and moved to midfield before junior quarterback Max Brosner, who was brilliant most of the night, was picked off by Mays senior Tyrone Mixon.
The Raiders took over at their 39-yard line and needed just four plays – one of which was a 30-yard run by Nelson – to hit pay dirt again. On third-and-11 from the Centennial 44-yard line, the Knight defender covering Mays senior Jamarcus McCoy fell down. Raider quarterback Jahquez Evans saw it and hit McCoy for the touchdown. A two-point conversion run failed, but Mays led 48-41 with a little more than two minutes remaining in regulation.
Centennial took over at its 39-yard line, but had its worst possession of the game as a one-yard run, a dropped pass and two incompletions gave the ball back to the Raiders, who ran out the clock to claim the win.
Centennial 7 21 13 0 41
Mays 14 14 14 6 48
M – Jahquez Evans 15 run (Chloe Robinson kick)
M – Amir Abdur-Rahman 29 pass from Evans (Robinson kick)
C – Blane Mason 8 pass from Max Brosmer (Nicky Solomon kick)
C – Julian Nixon 32 pass from Brosmer (Solomon kick)
C – Nixon 21 pass from Brosmer (Solomon kick)
M – Abdur-Rahman 17 pass from Jahquez Evans (Robinson kick)
C – Mason 4 pass from Brosmer (Solomon kick)
M – Abdur-Rahman 26 pass from Evans (Robinson kick)
C – Mason 14 pass from Brosmer (Solomon kick)
M – Kendell Wimberly 6 pass from Evans (Robinson kick)
C – Nixon 24 pass from Brosmer (kick failed)
M – Tyree Nelson 93 run (Robinson kick)
M – Jamarcus McCoy 44 pass from Evans (Robinson kick)