DURANT, Okla. – Joel Carlos would connect on a career-long 48 yard field goal with 57 seconds to play to lift Southeastern to a 27-24 win in the 101st meeting against rival East Central in the Great American Classic on Saturday afternoon at Paul Laird Field.
The win lifts the Savage Storm to 7-4 to end the regular season and is the fourth-straight win in the series and moves the overall series record to 49-46-6 in favor of Southeastern.
"It's always hard," said head coach Bo Atterberry. "The rival games and the back and forth. I'm proud of the way we finished this final game of the year."
"We thought we would be able to get the ball in his hands on punt return and we did," he continued, talking about punt returner O.J. Walker.
"Yeah," Atterberry continued, "A lot of ups and downs, but I don't think that there is another Division II in the state of Oklahoma that's had a four year run like us. We've had poor coaching for the past four games, but once again I don't know who else has done that in Oklahoma, and I'm proud of these guys for doing that."
SE won the contest despite the offense turning in just 194 yards of total offense, but were bolstered on the day by stellar special teams plays as the Storm posted 190 yards combined in returns.
The biggest of those was O.J. Walker's 56 yard punt return for a touchdown, his third return for a score this season, and he would finish the day with 103 yards on three punt returns.
Offensively, Rashod Polk turned in a team-best 84 yards on the ground and a touchdown.
Rollin Kinsaul completed 10 passes on the day for 65 yards and a TD, with Jaylen Sims hauling in three of them for 17 yards, while Devon Blanton caught the touchdown.
Justin Young led the defense with 10 tackles, while Christian Banasiak turned in seven stops and 1.5 sacks. Reggie Marshall and Seu Luafatasaga each turned in a sack as well, while Sherman Gilbert recorded his first career interception.
After trading fruitless drives to open the game, ECU would get on the board first when it burned 9:39 of the first quarter and went 92 yards on 17 plays to take a 6-0 lead on a RayJohn Austin-Ramsey four yard pass to Trinity Benson, but Damarius Lavender would block the following PAT to keep the score at 6-0.
The Storm would go three and out and the Tigers would respond with a 61 yard TD pass from Austin-Ramsey top Benson and after a two-point conversion SE would trail 14-0 with 13:54 to go in the first half.
Southeastern would finally get its answer late in the second, taking advantage of a 34 yard O.J. Walker punt return and eventually Polk would punch in from three yards out to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 3:33 to go in the second quarter.
However, the Tigers would tack on a 35 yard field goal with 35 seconds remaining in the half to take a 17-7 lead into the break.
The Storm marched the opening drive of the second half 73 yards to the ECU two yard line before Joel Carlos connected on a 19 yard field goal to close the gap to 17-10 with 8:37 to go in the third.
SE would force the Tigers into a three-and-out on their next drive thanks to a third-down sack by Reggie Marshall and Christian Banasiak, setting up Walker to take the following punt and return it 56 yards for a touchdown, his third punt return TD of the season, knotting the score at 17-17.
The Storm defense would force ECU to turn it over on downs on its next drive and go into the fourth quarter tied at 17-17.
Unfortunately, the East Central would take advantage of a Storm turnover on its ensuing possession and a fourth-down pass from Austin-Ramsey to Devyn Williams for 10 yards and a 24-17 lead with 9:51 to play.
Southeastern responded on its next drive and after setting up shop in ECU territory after a 30 yard CJ Elkins kick return, Kinsaul would hit Blanton for a 13 yard TD strike to knot the game at 24-24 with 7:35 to play.
Later in the fourth Sherman Gilbert would end ECU's drive with a pick at the Tiger 48 yard line and give the Storm the ball back with 2:08 to play.
SE would move to the ECU 31 yard line where Carlos would drain a career-long 48 yard field goal with 57 seconds to play and after holding the Tigers to a three-and out the Storm would close the year with a 27-24 rivalry win over East Central.