MARION — Pulaski Academy has the rare ability to make plays with the game on the line no matter the circumstances.
The Bruins authored another chapter Friday night.
Pulaski Academy marched 75 yards in 10 plays and scored on a touchdown pass from quarterback Brandon Cobb to Andrew Fiser from 27 yards out with no time left on the clock to stun Marion 27-26 Friday night at Southern Bancorp Stadium.
The Bruins survived and will play at 6A-West champion Greenwood in next week’s semifinal.
“I think this was the biggest one of my career so far,” Pulaski Academy Coach Anthony Lucas said. “Our kids fought back and never gave up. It’s really a proud moment for a coach. My hat goes off to Marion and their staff. It was a great high school football game.” Fiser’s was the fourth lead change in the deciding quarter.
Pulaski Academy led 14-12 after three quarters. Marion forced a rare Bruin punt on the initial drive of the final quarter.
The Patriots (8-3) went to work at their own 40-yard line ahead of a fourth-and-goal from the Bruin 4-yard line when quarterback Ashton Gray connected with junior receiver Mitrell Lewis for a 4-yard touchdown toss for a 20-14 lead with 5:05 left in regulation.
Marion forced a pair of incompletions on the ensuing P ulaski Academy possession when itwent to Fiser on an end around and the senior ran up his team’s sideline, converting it for a 60-yard touchdown run and a 21-20 lead with 4:27 left in the fourth. But Marion again had a response. The Patriots started their final drive at their own 30-yard line and deliberately marched into Bruin territory before getting a first-and-10 at the Pulaski Academy 41 with 1:37 left.
Gray took the shotgun snap and hit tight end Cam Garrett for a short completion that he turned into more, running around a couple of tacklers and scoring a 41-yard touchdown that pushed the Patriots back in front 26-21 with 1:26 remaining.
The Patriot defense pushed the Bruins to a fourth-and-11 late in the fourth quarter that the Bruins converted when Cobb bought some time by rolling right and throwing back left, completing a 16-yard pass to Chance McKindra to move the chains.
“Our defense played their guts out,” Marion Coach Lance Clark said. “That’s all I can say right now. They gave us every chance to win that ballgame. They played hard, they played well. They played well enough for us to win.” An 18-yard completion to William Svoboda gave the Bruins life in Patriots territory, but they still had 27 yards to cover with 12 seconds left and a fresh set of downs.
Cobb threw down the home sideline and Marion defensive back Amari Lee broke on the ball, but couldn’t catch it for a game-clinching interception.
That set the stage for Cobb’s game-winner to Fiser.
“We came out bunched up in a quad set before that last play,” Lucas said. “Then we sent receivers going every which way and Brandon made a great throw and Andrew made an unreal catch. What an ending.” “I give PA a lot of credit, we wanted them to win a game like this and wanted for us not to lose a game like this,” Clark said. “This hurts now, and it will hurt a long time, but it’s a good sign for our program that we can contend in games like this in this setting against the best team the state of Arkansas has to offer.” Marion started the scoring when Gray ran 20 yards to glory with 6:20 left in the first quarter. Tthe Bruins then took a 7-6 lead when Cobb hit Walden Culpepper for a 10-yard touchdown pass on fourth down late in the opening frame, and the 7-6 lead held into halftime.
Pulaski Academy made the most of its first drive of the second half, scoring when Cobb ran 8 yards for a touchdown with 7:03 left in the third period for a 14-6 advantage. Marion responded when Gray covered 23 yards with 34 seconds left in the third to get the hosts within 14-12, a score that doubled as the tally after three quarters.