Highland falls just short in final game

November 8, 2013

Highland’s Eli Shelton fights off a Hermleigh defender in Thursday’s season finale. The Cardinals won 39-38 to end Highland’s playoff hopes. Hermleigh and first-place Ira will represent District 7 in the Six-Man, Division I playoffs. (Photo by Michelle McCarty)

HIGHLAND — Thursday night’s final regular-season football game between Highland and Hermleigh was about what you’d expect for two teams with identical season and district records fighting for the No. 2 playoff spot in District 7 Six-Man.
There were four lead changes, two in each half, before Hermleigh finally emerged with a 39-38 win to take the No. 2 berth and end Highland’s season.
Highland, which finish-es 1-2 in district and 5-5 overall, took a 30-27 lead on Eli Shelton’s 47-yard TD run and a two-point Jacob Richburg kick in the third quarter. However, Hermleigh went ahead for the final time, 33-30, on Zach Digby’s 33-yard scor-ing run with 3:21 remain-ing in the period.
It was still 33-30 until the final two minutes of the game when both teams lit up the scoreboard. How-ever, Digby’s 19-yard TD pass to D.J. Botts with 1:51 left provided Hermleigh (2-1, 6-4) with just enough points to claim victory.
Hermleigh led 39-30 point, and the Cardinals still led by a point after a final Highland touchdown — on a 57-yard pass from Richburg to Michael Hyde — and two-point kick by Richburg with 1:08 remaining in the game.
Highland then attemp-ted an onsides kick, but it proved unsuccessful and Hermleigh was able to run off the remaining time and claim a tight win.
Highland rushed for 373 yards and narrowly missed having three 100-yard runners. Hyde had 174 yards on 22 carries, while Shel-ton ran 11 times for 108 yards and Shelby Howard, who scored three times, ran 12 times for 98 yards. Digby led Hermleigh with 100 yards on 14 rushes.
Hermleigh had a 141-53 edge in passing as Digby completed 11 of 15 through the air. Richburg was 2-for-6 for 53 yards, with both completions going to Hyde. Howard’s three TDs came on runs of 15, 6 and 23 yards, all in the second quarter. The last TD, plus Richburg’s kick, gave the Hornets their first lead over Hermleigh (22-20), but the visitors regained a 27-22 edge at halftime.

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