For one half, Southview looked like the 2008 Division II state champions, and the Cougars had to draw upon all of that experience to fend off a furious rally from a gutsy Anthony Wayne team Friday night.
Southview (2-2) scored on five of its first six possessions of the game to take a seemingly insurmountable 35-14 lead at the half. But the Generals (2-2) responded with three second-half touchdowns to pull within a touchdown. AW had the ball at the Cougar 5 with no time left on the clock but senior Mo May intercepted the potential tying score.
The Cougars, the two-time defending Northern Lakes League champions, amassed 291 total yards in the first half but had to hang on for a 42-35 triumph in the league opener at home.
"Playing in the state championship game in the same kind of situation definitely helped our poise," Southview coach Jim Mayzes said of the Cougars' dramatic 29-25 comeback victory over Cincinnati Anderson in the final last year. "A bunch of our guys in the secondary were there last year. Mo May got an interception in that game in a similar situation. We had the ball on the last toss in Mo May's belly. That's the way to finish."
The Cougars looked to have put it away when quarterback De'Nard Pinckney and Eric Howard hooked up on a 25-yard score to make it 42-21 with 8:28 left in the game.
But four plays later, Anthony Wayne's Matt Green scored on a 45-yard run to pull within 14 points. The Generals then recovered an onside kick. Six plays after that, Mike Bridges scored on a QB sweep from seven yards out to make it 42-35 with 5:06 remaining.
After two stops, Anthony Wayne got the ball with
1:19 left and drove from its 32 to the Southview 5. Two long pass plays (16 and 13 yards) and two long runs (25 and 16) from Bridges set his team up at the Southview 10 with 10 seconds left. Bridges then threw an incompletion as time expired, but a pass interference call gave AW one last chance at the 5. Bridges kept the play alive but had no open receivers, and May stepped in for the interception to end it.
"We dominated the second half," AW coach Craig Smith said. "It's just hard to come up short like that. But Anthony Wayne kids showed heart and character and did not quit."
After being held to 167 yards in the first half, AW tallied 259 yards and scored on running plays of 45 (Green) and seven (Bridges) in the second half. Bridges also threw a TD strike to Jack Henry.
But the Cougars amassed 291 total yards, including 202 on the ground with four TDs, in the first half.
Pinckney finished with 132 rushing yards, 128 passing yards, and accounted for three scores.
"I'm so proud of the defense," Pinckney said. "We needed a big play at the end, and they stepped it up. Last year in the playoffs they did the same thing. Anthony Wayne is always a good team. They're strong and physical. We were expecting a battle. Honestly, I didn't think it would come down to the last three seconds. We pulled it off."
It took the Cougars just four plays and 1:15 to score the game's first touchdown. Pinckney connected with James Hall on a 36-yard pass play to open the game and capped it with a nifty 29-yard scamper to make it 8-0.
Anthony Wayne then mishandled its first snap, and Southview's Jay Fisher recovered at the General 27. Three plays later, May took it nine yards to give the Cougars a 15-0 lead.
The Generals scored on the first play of the second quarter on Bridges' 15-yard run. But Southview went back up by two scores with a seven play, 59-yard drive. Dylan Coleman scored from five yards out for a 22-7 Cougar lead with 9:19 left in the first half.
AW responded just three plays later when Bridges found a wide-open Reed Allen, who sprinted in for a 43-yard TD to pull the Generals within 22-14.
May, who finished with 95 rushing yards, then ran 56 yards for a Southview TD and a 28-14 lead. The Cougars went up by three touchdowns when Pinckney hit Jake Rhodes on a 29-yard strike as Southview grabbed a 35-14 lead with 3:45 left in the first half.
But the Generals marched 87 yards on 10 plays to pull within 35-21.
"Obviously we did not play well in the first half," Smith said. "But we kept our composure."
Mayzes said a half-dozen of his starters were fighting through injuries.
"We ran out of gas, and we started having some blunders," he said. "Their kids fought harder because they were behind. We eased up a little bit. Both teams battled down to the wire. We could have crumbled right there. But I am so proud of our effort."