There’s an adage in sports that as a favorite, you never want to play a divisional or regional rival in the first round of the playoffs.
Carvers Bay can attest to that belief after Friday night.
The Lower State’s No. 1 seed in the Class A Division I playoffs was knocked off by crosstown rival and Region VII-A foe Hemingway at Big Bear Stadium.
A 39-yard touchdown pass from Xavier Weaver to Kelvin Washington Jr. with 53 seconds remaining gave Hemingway a 20-14 win.
“I’m really shocked,” said Carvers Bay senior quarterback Da’Shaun Aiken. “I didn’t think it would end like this.”
Hemingway (6-5) fell by 25 points to the Bears (9-2) a few weeks ago en route to amassing its most losses in a season since 2005, and the teams were meeting in the playoffs for the second consecutive year and fourth time in the past five years.
“You never want to play a rival, plus you never want to play a team you just got through playing, so there were two things there,” Bears coach Nate Thompson said. “But regardless, they came in and were well prepared. They wanted it bad enough. They played one of the best ballgames they’ve played in a long time and they deserve it.”
Hemingway kept Carvers Bay scoreless for the final three quarters and began its game-winning drive on its own 11-yard line with 4:21 to play. On the go-ahead touchdown, Washington had single coverage down the left sideline and Weaver lofted a pass for him to run under at the goal line.
“I wasn’t going to throw it to him at first,” Weaver said. “. . . But I trust my receiver. He told me to look for him so I looked for him.”
Carvers Bay was held to 20 yards rushing on 23 carries, including sacks, and Aiken was unable to manufacture enough offense through the air. He completed 12 of 25 passes for 118 yards and threw two interceptions, including a deep throw from the Hemingway 48 inside the final 30 seconds.
“We didn’t run the ball much and didn’t get a whole lot of things going on offense, and defensively we made some mistakes,” Thompson said. “We didn’t come with our ‘A’ game tonight, and if you don’t have your ‘A’ game you’re not going to win. The No. 1 team bit the dust.”
Hemingway struck first on a 3-yard touchdown run by DaQuan Casey on fourth-and-1 to finish the Tigers’ opening drive 5 minutes into the game. Casey finished with 125 yards on 24 carries.
But the Bears scored twice in 11 seconds to take a 14-7 lead in the first quarter.
Aiken scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal for the Bears to finish a 69-yard drive that included Aiken passes of 20-plus yards to Desmond Sumpter and Shayton Durrand.
A Shaquan Durrand 30-yard interception return for a touchdown 11 seconds later gave the Bears a 14-7 lead. Weaver’s pass into double coverage bounced off a receiver and Durrand took the ball nearly off his shoulder pads and raced to the end zone. But it was the last points the Bears would score.
“I kind of knew they were going to come out like that,” Aiken said. “But we just thought since we beat them earlier in the season we could do it again. But playoffs are a different story. I think the seniors knew what was at stake, the underclassmen, they haven’t really been through the fire yet.”
Hemingway marched down the field to open the third quarter, tying the score at 14 with a 69-yard, 11-play drive that took 6:03 and was capped by a 2-yard scoring run by Weaver on fourth-and-goal.
Weaver rolled to his right following a fake handoff for the score. The Tigers were aided by three Bears penalties for 40 yards on the drive.
Following Hemingway’s tying score, the Bears played much of the remainder of the second half in Hemingway territory, but they couldn’t convert the field position into points.
Carvers Bay took possession on the Hemingway 31 late in the third quarter following a 13-yard punt that was pressured by Naquez Pringle, and the Bears were aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Hemingway following a sack that would have left the Bears with a fourth-and-15. But Dominic Scott intercepted a 29-yard Aiken pass on third down in the end zone.
Devin Cuttino tackled Weaver for a loss of 6 yards at the Hemingway 6 to force a punt that gave the Bears possession in Hemingway territory with about 6 minutes to play, but the Bears punted after three plays with 4:30 remaining.
“We came to play as a team today,” Weaver said. “There were a bunch of ‘I’s’ on our team the last couple weeks. We came in this week ready to play this team.”
H-DaQuan Casey 3 run (Luis Marin Cardena kick)
CB-Da’Shaun Aiken 1 run (Israel Davis rush)
CB-Shaquan Durrand 30 interception return (pass failed)
H-Xavier Weaver 2 run (Cardena kick) Fourth quarter
H-Kelvin Washington Jr. 39 pass from Weaver (kick failed)