By Doug Gorman
The Ola Mustangs relied on enough big plays by the offense, and a ton of timely defense to rally past Stockbridge 15-14 on the road in Region 4-AAAA action Friday night.
Trailing 14-8 late in the game, Ola's defense came up with a huge fumble at the Stockbridge 40 yardline when Justin Gant fell on the loose football.
The Mustangs punched it into the end zone from there. Taking over with a little more than six minutes left in the game, Ola chewed up the 40 yards of real estate in about two minutes to produce the go-ahead score.
Ryan Arnold was the catalyst on the drive, rushing for gains of 9 and 13 yards to push the ball inside the Tigers' 10. Arnold capped the drive with another 10-yard run to tie the game at 14-all.
Brandon Drake added the important extra point to seal the Mustangs' lead as the ball bounced off the uprights and through for the one-point lead.
Stockbridge still had a chance to march the ball down field on what turned out to be its last series of the game, but a couple of big sacks in the series and a holding call against the Tigers turned the ball back over on downs and Ola was able to run out the clock.
"Our kids showed some composure because I felt like I couldn't motivate them really well, I don't know what it was, but at halftime I could see they started to believe. This game might be big for us, who knows," Kovzel said.
Ola improved its record to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in Region 4-AAAA. Stockbridge is still looking for its first win and dropped to 0-5 overall and 0-3 in region action.
All three of the Tigers' league losses have been close. The Tigers lost to Dutchtown 13-0, and Alcovy 14-7 before Friday's one-point loss to the Mustangs.
The loss spoiled a 100-yard plus, two-touchdown night for running back Victor Hardemon.
Hardemon's first touchdown of the game came on the first series of the contest as the Tigers marched 88 yards. Hardemon handled the bulk of the carries for the Tigers during the drive, including the caper as he took the hand-off and rolled into the end zone on a 19-yard carry.
The Mustangs scored a touchdown and added a two-point conversion on their next position as they marched 74-yards in 10-plays to take the lead. Facing a second down from the one, Jamaal Edmonds rambled across the goal line for the score.
It would stay that way until the second half when Hardemon added his second touchdown of the night on a 5-yard run to push the Tigers into their last lead.
One player earlier, the Tigers showed they could also pick up yardage through the air as quarterback Leon Prunty hit Tez Williams on a 30-yard reception.
The Tigers had a chance even earlier in the second half to add points to their side of the scoreboard, but they couldn't produce.
Hardemon took the opening kick from of the second half from his own 22 to the Ola 18, but the Tigers were unable to score from there and ball went back to Ola after the Mustangs put together a fourth-down stop.