PALMYRA, Mo. - It's what you hope for when you attend a football game - the decision riding on the very last play.
And luckily for the Blair Oaks Falcons, it went their way.
The Falcons survived a last-ditch rally attempt from the Palmyra Panthers and escaped with a 28-20 victory Saturday afternoon in a Class 2 quarterfinal contest.
The win put Blair Oaks in the semifinal round for the third straight season, as they'll host Lawson at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with a berth in the state championship game on the line.
"We were just fortunate to get out of here with a win," Blair Oaks coach Brad Drehle said.
Despite taking the lead for good in the second quarter, the Falcons were unable to breathe easily until the final horn sounded.
Trailing by that 28-20 margin with just 1:38 left in the game, the Panthers took over the ball at their own 12-yard line.
Seven plays and one minute later, they were in Blair Oaks territory. And with 14 seconds remaining, they had the ball at the Falcons' 21 with time for two more plays.
The first play, a heave to the end zone, appeared to be heading for an open receiver until the Falcons' Dominic Jamerson batted it away. That left :05.3 on the clock and time for one more play. Palmyra quarterback Brock Butler, who already had thrown for two long touchdowns in the quarter, sought one more.
But, after having had trouble putting pressure on him during the period, the Falcons made him scramble out of the pocket and Butler was unable to get out of bounds before time expired.
"It's one of those things where the kids were tired - we probably should have subbed some fresh legs in there to give us a pass rush," Drehle said. "But it's one of those things where you're darned if you do and darned if you don't."
With a howling wind coming out of the south for most of the game, six of the seven touchdowns in the game came from the team with the win at its back.
In the first quarter, it was Palmyra pulling it off. The Panthers' Caleb Kizer took it the distance on his first carry of the game, scampering 64 yards for a touchdown. But losing some points that would become big later on, the creative 2-point try attack of the Panthers' came up empty on a run attempt, leaving it at 6-0.
The Falcons had the wind behind them in the second quarter and scored two touch-downs. The first came when Jamerson took a pitch and raced 57 yards for the score. About halfway through the run, the junior put his head down and found another gear to pull away from a pack of would-be tacklers.
"He just ran away from them," Drehle said. "That's what we're looking for out of him. He's done so much for us and had a tremendous year, and he's got another level I think he can get to as time goes by."
And where the Panthers failed, the Falcons succeeded. On the point-after attempt, the Falcons snapped the ball directly to kicker Chris Cooper, who lofted a pass to a wide-open Haydn Lock for a 2-point conversion that made it 8-6. Blair Oaks never trailed again.
On their next possession, the Falcons used a personal-foul call on the Panthers to gain valuable yardage, and Lock capped the drive with a 17-yard run. This time, Cooper kicked the ball, and the Falcons took a 15-6 lead into halftime.
The Falcons again had the wind at their back in the third quarter, and their first possession looked like it was going to be a three-and-out. But with the punt team on the field, an offsides penalty on Palmyra gave Blair Oaks a big first down. That sparked a 12-play, 67-yard drive that ended on a 4-yard touchdown run by Lock. Cooper's PAT ran the lead to 22-6 and things looked to be going the Falcons' way.
But as the teams shifted ends for the fourth quarter, the momentum shifted, too. The Panthers got the two aforementioned touchdown passes to cut into the lead. But while the first 2-point pass was good, the second one failed, keeping the Falcons up 22-20.
That's when the Falcons came up with their biggest play of the game, and it came with them driving into the wind.
After recovering an onside kick near midfield, two Blair Oaks plays went nowhere. But then Lock, who had thrown just two passes while playing quarterback most of the game, lofted a short pass just over the Palmyra line in the middle of the field. Corbin Singer ran under it, hauled it in and dashed 53 yards for a touchdown.
While the point-after kick was no good, the score made it 28-20 and kept the Falcons in front.
"(It was unexpected), not only to throw with Haydn back there, but then throwing into the wind," Drehle said. "Corbin made a great catch and he told me he would score. He was begging for the ball for about 10 minutes and we finally ran the play."
Singer, one of seven seniors on the roster, said it was time to step up and make a play.
"I knew it was going to be there, I just had to catch the ball," he said.
And after holding off the Panthers one last time, the Falcons had a spot among the last four teams alive in Class 2.
"It's just great," Singer said. "We've been working since we were in fifth, sixth grade, just working our (behinds) off trying to get it done. You can't really describe it, it's awesome."