It took a while to show up, but once it did, Miner pride took Fort Meade a long way Friday night at Frank S. Battle Field.
The Miners closed their Class 3A, District 4 schedule by erasing a 17-point deficit, defeating Lakeland Christian 28-25.
Neither team had anything to play for, at least as far as the post season was concerned because a week prior, Tampa Catholic and Frostproof snagged the two district playoff spots in the ultra-competitive league.
Fort Meade took its first lead of the night scoring its third unanswered touchdown with just over five minutes to go in the third.
The 80-yard march was capped on a one-yard keeper by Jay Smith, who engineered the biggest play of the drive when he connected with Malik Brown on a 30-yard completion as the Miners faced a fourth-and-18 at the Lakeland Christian 40. Smith had a run of 15 yards and Tyler King ripped off a 16 yarder earlier in the drive as well.
They extended their advantage to 28-17 on a two-yard run by King, capping a 51-yard drive that began after a very short Viking punt. King also provided the key play, a 31-yard pickup on a 2nd-and-23 play from the LCS 38.
The Vikings finally found the end zone again with 3:15 to play, helped in part by an excessive celebration penalty following Fort Meade’s fourth touchdown which meant the Miners kicked off from their own 25, and another unsportsmanlike call on the kickoff run back which gave LCS the ball at the Fort Meade 46. After converting on a fourth-and-15, T.J. Simmons hauled in a Christian Alexander pass for a 16-yard score. The two point conversion, and acrobatic and athletic play by Alexander who threw all back across the field after almost being sacked, cut the lead to 28-25.
Because they were out of timeouts — LCS burned its last on the two-point conversion try — they attempted an onside kick, but Malik Bighems pounced on it.
King did the rest, getting two first downs to run out the clock.
The win improved Fort Meade to 7-2 on the year, with the losses coming in district play to Frostproof and Tampa Catholic.
The first half was all Lakeland Christian, at least for most of it.
Lakeland Christian had a 10-0 lead before the Miners ever had a chance to run their first offensive play.
The Vikings took the opening kickoff 80 yards in nine plays for the first points of the night, a one-yard plunge by Simmons, who opened the game with four straight carries, the last one nullified by a holding penalty.
In fact, yellow flags were about the only thing that slowed the march; there were three Lakeland Christian penalties in all that they overcame.
The Vikings then pooched kicked, and recovered at the Fort Meade 35, and once again, it was Simmons who set up the score taking the ball 31 yards on the next play to the Fort Meade four. However the visitors got no closer to the goal line, and settled for a successful 31-yard field goal with 5:22 to play in the first.
Fort Meade looked like they might quickly answer, driving inside the Viking 10, thanks in large part to the running of King who had scampers of 18 and 26 yards during the possession. But a fumble on the first and goal at the eight fell into Lakeland Christian’s hands to stop the threat.
The Vikings upped their lead to 17-0 midway through the second quarter, taking advantage of a partially blocked punt to take over at the Miner 43. LCS needed just five plays to score on a five-yard swing pass into the right flat to R.B. Marlow with 5:44 to go before the break.
Fort Meade’s explosive offense then came to life, moving 85 yards in just five plays as well, the biggie being the 53-yard touchdown catch by Malik Brown. Smith found Brown on a quick hitter over the middle, and the wideout did the rest to cut the lead to 17-7 with 4:15 to go before intermission.
They outdid that by five yards on their next possession, one of the Miners most impressive of the season, in covering 90 yards to make it a 17-15 game just 1:23 before the half. Smith hit Culpepper in stride in the back of the end zone from 29 yards to out to cap a highlight-reel series of plays, including a 17-yard pass to Culpepper, 14-yard run by King and 16 yard completion to Brown as the Miners operated with their hurry up offense. Smith on a keeper converted the two point after try.
The Miners will close their 2013 season on the road next weekend against struggling Tenoroc, which is 0-9 this year. The Titans gave up 55 points to Lake Wales in just the first quarter in losing again last night, 76-0.