NASHVILLE — For the West Frankfort Redbirds, the regular season was about 14 seconds too long.
The Redbirds, fighting for their playoff lives, led Nashville 38-34 with just under 14 seconds to play. That was enough time for Nashville quarterback Cameron Parker to find Dalton Novak in the right corner of the end zone.
“It was our two-minute drill,” said Nashville coach Steve Kozuszek. “We practice it every Thursday. We did a good job executing it. The guys obviously knew what they were doing. They got the yards that they could and they got out of bounds.”
“They got good receivers and a good quarterback,” said West Frankfort coach Brian Beery. “Their quarterback was on the money most of the night. Our secondary is young. We have two juniors, one didn’t play last year. They made some great plays tonight, but when it comes down to it Nashville made more plays than we did.”
That touchdown pass likely ended the West Frankfort season.
The Redbirds finished the season at 5-4, but had just 30 playoff points entering the game.
“I don’t think we have enough points,” said West Frankfort coach Brian Beery following the game.
After a scoreless first quarter, the game turned into a slugfest. The teams combined for 36 points in the fourth quarter, 28 in the final 4:44.
“It was back and forth,” said West Frankfort coach Brian Beery. “I thought they would give us a battle and they did. They group up front and we run the ball. I knew their strength was stopping the run, so I knew it wouldn’t be an easy game.
“They forced us to pass the ball more than we normally like to. I thought at times we did a great job with the passing game. We just fell short.”
West Frankfort fell behind 22-8 early in the third quarter, then put 22 straight points on the board, including a 44-yard run by Madison Allen.
However, Nashville wouldn’t go away. The Hornets closed to 30-28 with 4:44 remaining when Julian Metcalf scored on a six-yard run. Just 1:20 later, Nashville took the lead when Parker jumped a Connor Eaton screen pass at the West Frankfort 18 and rolled untouched into the end zone.
“Nothing was as big as that interception,” Beery said. “We gave them a touchdown instead of making them earn it. If they would have had to earn it, we could live with that. But, we did come back from that.”
But, that was just the beginning of the last minute fireworks.
West Frankfort stormed right back on a home run play to Kyle Hammers. Hammers got behind the Nashville defense at midfield, hauled in Eaton’s pass at about the 44 and out-raced the Hornets to the end zone. The play covered 78 yards.
“If we were going to let them burn us with something it was going to be the pass,” Kozuszek said. “We were definitely a run-heavy defense tonight. That showed a little bit.”
Eaton took the ball into the end zone on the conversion, building a 38-34 advantage with just 2:17 remaining.
That proved to be enough time for Parker to engineer a 72-yard, 11-play drive. The last 19 yards coming on a pass to Novak.
Parker finished with 189 yards passing. Eaton had 226, hitting on passes of 60, 65, and 78 yards. Eaton also rushed for 83 yards. Metcalf ran for 172 for Nashville.
The Hornets finished the season at 4-5.