Bruton High clinched at least a tie for its first Bay Rivers District football title Saturday, beating Tabb 31-28 in the most dramatic title-deciding game the league has produced.
The Panthers (8-2, 7-2 district) won the crown on Jackson Neve's 49-yard touchdown pass to De'Arius Olvis with 14.4 seconds to play in the game. That touchdown quieted the loud cheering of Tabb fans prompted by quarterback Rex Harrison's 2-yard touchdown run with 29.9 seconds left.
Harrison's touchdown gave the Tigers a 28-24 lead. But the Panthers moved into Tabb territory when D'Andre Parker returned the kickoff to the 49-yard line.
On the next play, Neve launched a bullet for Olvis, who was sprinting down the right sideline. The ball sailed just over the outstretched fingers of Tabb defensive back Alex Prior and into the hands of Olvis, who had cut back to the left and behind Prior.
Olvis caught the ball in stride at about the 15 and ran alone into the end zone. He was joined by so many happy teammates that the Panthers were penalized for excessive celebration.
No matter, the game ended two plays later and the Panthers had earned at least a share of the district title. They will share the title with Smithfield if the Packers (7-2, 6-2) win at Poquoson on Monday.
By winning the Panthers also earned the top seed in Region I Division 3, and will have home-field advantage for both games, should they win the first. Poquoson (5-4, 5-3) will be the Panthers semifinal opponent, Friday or Saturday, if Smithfield wins Monday. If Poquoson wins Monday, the Panthers will host Park View-South Hill.
Tabb (6-4, 6-3) was eliminated from the Region I Division 4 playoff race. Powhatan (10-0) and Chancellor (8-2) already have earned D-4 playoff berths.
Courtland (6-3) and Smithfield will earn the final two berths in D-4 if they win Monday. If either loses — and Courtland has a difficult game at D-3 playoff qualifier James Monroe (7-3) — then York (7-3) earns the other D-4 playoff berths.
Bruton led 3-0 against Tabb after a dominant first-quarter defensive effort. But Tabb took a 14-3 halftime lead with two second-quarter touchdowns: one on a spectacular leaping 19-yard TD grab by Chris Ham, and the other as Corey Patrick (119 rushing yards) ran 18 yards for a score with 14.4 seconds left.
The Panthers converted a Patrick fumble into a short TD run by Lorenzo Taliaferro (100 yards rushing) to cut the deficit to 14-10 shortly after halftime. But the Tigers offensive line continued to get a good push, as Tabb drove 62 yards and took a 21-10 lead on Harrison's 2-yard run.
But, crucially, Bruton answered back: with a long Taliaferro kickoff return, a 37-yard pass from Neve to Alex Powers and Neve's 2-yard TD run. That made it 21-17 Tabb late in the third quarter.
An acrobatic interception by Ham at the goal line denied Bruton the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter. But, after a Tabb punt, the Panthers used Neve's 23-yard scramble and runs of 15 and 11 yards by Taliaferro, the second for a TD with 5:39 to play, to take a 24-21 lead.
Patrick's 41-yard kickoff return to the Tabb 49 gave the Tigers good field position. They milked it carefully, moving the 51 yards in 12 plays.
Dillon Biagas (111 yards rushing) ran for eight yards on third-and-2 at the Bruton 10. That set up Harrison's touchdown that put Tabb on top with 29.9 seconds to play.
But the Panthers ripped the Tigers hearts out seconds later with the Neve to Olvis pass.
BRUTON 31, TABB 28Bruton301414 — 31Tabb01477 — 28Bru – Arbino 27 field goal
Tab – Ham 19 pass from R. Harrison (Henderson kick)
Tab – Patrick 18 run (Henderson kick)
Bru – Taliaferro 2 run (Arbino kick)
Tab – R. Harrison 2 run (Henderson kick)
Bru – Neve 2 run (Arbino kick)
Bru – Taliaferro 11 run (Arbino kick)
Tab – R. Harrison 2 run (Henderson kick)
Bru – Olvis 49 pass from Neve (Arbino kick)TEAM STATSBruTabFirst downs1618Rushes-yards31-12048-248Passing yards232128Comp-Att-Int10-20-210-15-0Punts-avg.1-433-33Penalties-yards6-407-66Fumbles-lost1-11-1Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times