The Carvers Bay Bears made it to their much-anticipated second round Class A, Division I playoff clash with neighborhood rival Hemingway - barely.
Carvers Bay (10-1) survived a late rally by St. Johns when the visiting Islanders failed to convert on a two-point conversion with 1:05 left to play, enabling the Bears to escape with a 20-18 victory.
Dymond Frasier hauled in a 12-yard pass from quarterback Wesley Brown to pull St. John's within two points. A pair of Bears defenders - Karim Gamble and Tevin Richard - corralled St. John's back Dymon Frazier at the two-yard line to thwart the two-point conversion.
"We have to get ourselves together and we have to get better," said Carvers Bay coach Nate Thompson, after his team committed three turnovers and was whistled for 10 penalties for 85 yards.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The thrilling finish followed a lackluster first half by both teams that ended in a 6-6 tie.
The Bears came out roaring in the third quarter when Clayton Geathers exploded for a 66-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage for a 12-6 Carvers Bay lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Brown fumbled with the Bears' Devante Jackson recovering at the St. John's 12. Three plays later, Quae'Shawn Brockington bulled into the end zone from five yards.
Geathers added the two-point conversion and the Bears led 20-6 and were seemingly in control less than two minutes into the second half, with 10:16 left in the third quarter.
"Then we relaxed again and went back to that same stumbling and bumbling," said Thompson. "That hurt us, we've got to get out of that. Next week, we can't go into Hemingway like that. They will annihilate us."
But the Islanders (6-5) put together a dominating 16-play, 60-yard drive capped by Frasier's one-yard touchdown run to pull within 20-12 with just over five minutes left in the game.
The Bears managed two quick first downs but turned the ball over at midfield on a botched fake punt with 2:32 to play.
Nine plays later, Frasier caught the touchdown pass from Brown to set up the frenetic ending.
"We could have easily folded and it could have gotten out of hand," said St. John's coach James Waring Jr., a former head coach at Choppee.
"Our kids just hung together and we played as a team. Hopefully, we can play at that level right there (like Carvers Bay)."
After the two-point conversion failed, Geathers recovered an onside kick and the Bears ran out the clock to advance to next Friday's showdown at Hemingway.
Geathers paced the Carvers Bay ground game with 101 yards on 12 carries.