Longhorns hold off Abbeville in AISA first round

LINDEN — A questionable whistle and a defensive stand as time expired sent Marengo Academy (7-4)  to the second round of the AISA playoffs with a 15-13 victory over Abbeville Christian (7-4) Friday night.

With 35 seconds to go in the game, Abbeville’s Sterling Armstrong scooped up an apparent Marengo fumble and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown to put the Generals up 19-15. The officiating crew ultimately called the play back, ruling that one of the referees had blown the play dead before the fumble.

“I don’t know what happened there. I did hear a whistle. I’m sure they’re upset and I would be too to lose a game like that. I thought both teams played well. It was a hard-fought game,” Marengo Academy coach Robby James said of the play.

“We’re proud of this win. It was a great win. That play call was questionable, but I think we deserved it just as much as they did.”

Abbeville would ultimately get the ball back with 16.7 seconds to play but watched as the Longhorns batted down its final desperation heave as time expired.

Marengo Academy took the lead with 7:20 to play on a 23-yard field goal by Brant Lewis. The kick capped a 12-play, 71-yard drive for MA that answered an Abbeville touchdown that came on a three-yard run by Alex Robinson.

The Longhorns appeared destined to head into intermission with a 7-6 deficit when Griffin Fenn hauled in an 18-yard Austin Reeder touchdown pass to tie the game before Blaine Sellers’ PAT put the Generals up 7-6 with 37.2 seconds to go before half.

Marengo needed just one play to take the lead back as it gave the ball to freshman Hayden Huckabee around the left side. Huckabee weaved in and out of defenders on his way to an 80-yard touchdown run to put the Longhorns up 12-7 at the break.

“To be a ninth grader and run like he does, he made one of the darndest runs I have ever seen,” James said. “He broke three or four tackles on the play.”

The Longhorns opened the scoring in the game when Huckabee, who finished the night with 158 yards on 17 carries, ran 21 yards for a touchdown with 2:12 left in the first quarter. Austin Reeder led Abbeville with 147 yards from scrimmage on 20 touches.

Huckabee added six tackles and an interception on defense. Kyle Adams had six tackles and a fumble recovery. Thomas Etheridge had eight tackles and an interception. Carson Huckabee had nine stops, a sack and a forced fumble. Hayden Hall finished with 10 tackles for the Longhorns.

The Longhorns travel to face Restoration in the semi-finals of the Class A playoffs next Friday night.

“I feel like maybe they don’t know any better. They think they’re supposed to win,” James said of his young team, which boasts one senior and four juniors. “They feel like it is their time. Everybody talks about next year, but we’re talking about right now.”