When Jordan Roby saw the ball hit the ground on Tyree Lee's 31st and final carry of the night, an instantaneously sick feeling came over him.
"I saw the fumble," Phoebus' senior quarterback said. "The season flashed before my eyes."
Not just the season. The three-year winning streak. The dreams of a third consecutive state championship. The continued domination of their fiercest rival when the stakes were at their highest.
So give Phantoms' offensive lineman Jonathan McLean a big assist in what became a 12-7 victory against Hampton in Friday's Division 5 Eastern Region final at Darling Stadium.
If McLean doesn't fall on Lee's fumble in the shadow of the Crabbers' goal line, Roby doesn't find Daquan Romero two plays later on fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line for the winning touchdown.
"Jonathan was trailing him, just like we practice," Roby said, "and he got the ball."
got its 43rd consecutive victory overall, and sixth straight against the Crabbers.
For all of the emotion and intensity attached to the Hampton-Phoebus rivalry, the games often haven't been close.
The Phantoms won the previous five by an average of 23.4 points. Since 1990, Phoebus' first on-field win in the series, only eight of the 28 games have been decided by single digits.
"We really haven't been tested this year," Phantoms coach Stan Sexton said. "I thought the first time we met, this was going to be the kind of game it was. But we came out and broke it open."
Indeed, the Phantoms rolled Hampton 37-12 in the first meeting, scoring three touchdowns in a three-minute span of the second and third quarters.
But Friday, circumstances set the stage for a much closer game. The Crabbers scored first and played valiantly all night. The Phantoms, meanwhile, committed turnovers in Hampton territory on their first two possessions and committed more yards in penalties in the first half (40) than in the entire first game versus the Crabbers.
"Going into halftime, we were down, but we weren't really worried," Roby said. "We were killing ourselves with turnovers and penalties. We just needed to come out in the second half and keep doing what we were doing, and it worked out for us."
"We told the kids at halftime," Sexton said, "this is the first time this year we've really faced adversity, and let's see how we're going to react. There wasn't a lot of finger-pointing. It was just, 'Guys, we've got to step our play up, make some adjustments and get some things settled in.'
"We did that, and really came out with a lot of fire in the second half."
The fire didn't manifest itself on offense until the penultimate possession, when the Phantoms drove 80 yards in 14 plays for the go-ahead touchdown.
The first 74 yards were on the ground, until Roby found Romero on fourth down with 2:55 remaining.
"The toughest game we played all year," Roby said. "We expected a real tight game. We came in thinking they were going to bring what they had, because they didn't want to end their season, either, just like us. We just gave it our all."
Lee carried 31 times for 155 yards, losing one fumble before McLean bailed him out on the second. Roby completed 6 of 11 passes for 65 yards and the one touchdown, shaking off a red-zone interception.
"We've got to correct these things if we're going to win," Sexton said. "To overcome that adversity and the turnovers, and to be able to pull out a game against the caliber of opponent like that. It's a great testament to these kids' character and heart."