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Caleb Hynds was surrounded by screaming people, he was soaking wet, and he didn’t know where his phone was.

The first two problems weren’t really problems at all – just byproducts of his Berry Wildcats going on the road on Friday night and defeating powerhouse Pickens County, their region rival, for the first time in 86 years. The 29-28 victory also gave Berry sole possession of first place in Class 1A, Region 6.

When things had settled down a few minutes later, the third problem was solved, too: An assistant walked past and handed Hynds his phone, which he had hastily disposed of when his players warned him to get ready for a celebratory water dump.

“To get back to winning the way we are now, it all goes down to – the guys put in so much work this summer,” Hynds said. “… We may not be the most athletic, but they’re the ones that are gonna make a play.”

The Wildcats took over at midfield with 1:52 left, trailing 28-22, but on the first play of the drive junior quarterback Isaiah Kizzire threw deep down the left sideline to senior Tyler Lollar for a 34-yard gain.

Their prospects looked grim again when Kizzire was sacked to bring up third-and-11, but during a timeout, the Wildcats’ offensive line made a request to their coach that showed their confidence.

“My linemen are telling me to run the ball, and I’m like, ‘You gotta be crazy,’” Hynds said. “We run it two straight times and still get it in. They willed us in, and they played their tails off.”

A penalty took away the touchdown on third-and-11, but the Wildcats ran the ball again on fourth-and-3 from the 7-yard line. Senior Trent Smith broke through several Pickens County defenders for the game-winning touchdown with 36 seconds left.

It was remarkable enough that Pickens County had even come back to take the lead after trailing for the entire second half. Two passes by junior quarterback Javion Belle – one to sophomore Zackary Boone and the other to senior Jacoris Barnes – got the Tornadoes into Berry territory midway through the fourth quarter.

Another on-target throw from Belle to Barnes in the front corner of the end zone narrowed the deficit to 22-20, but the 2-point conversion failed.

The momentum surged in favor of the home team just seconds later, though, when Berry muffed the kickoff and Pickens County freshman Korbit Summerville recovered it.

The Tornadoes took a 28-22 lead in their homecoming game with 1:57 left after three straight runs by senior Kajaveion “K.J.” Byrd, who was announced as the school’s Homecoming King at halftime.

“He’s one of the biggest competitors you’ll ever know,” said Pickens County coach Michael Williams, a former tight end at The University of Alabama. “I’m probably gonna have to go sit with him until about 2 in the morning and explain to him that it’s OK and to help him get over this. He really wanted to win this region pretty bad. So now the message will be hopefully we’ll be the second seed and go in and take care of business that way.”

Pickens County (5-2 overall, 4-1 in Region 6) wraps up its region schedule over the next two weeks against Meek and South Lamar, who were a combined 1-11 in the region entering Friday night. Berry looks to clinch the region title with a win over Brilliant next week.

 

Other notes:

  • After an uneventful first quarter in which the teams combined for zero points and just four first downs, they scored five touchdowns on the final five possessions of the second quarter.
  • Belle threw a 36-yard touchdown to Barnes and a 2-point conversion to Boone to take an 8-0 lead.
  • Berry responded with a 12-play drive capped off by a 26-yard, tackle-breaking run by Smith. Kizzire completed the conversion to senior Johnathan Locke.
  • After a 24-yard loss on a kickoff return, Belle threw an interception over the middle to Lollar, who returned it all the way for a pick-six. Berry found the end zone for the second time in 38 seconds and took a 14-8 lead.
  • Tornadoes senior running back Xerrance Washington rejuvenated the offense with runs of 12 and 28 yards, then tied the game at 14-14 with a 7-yard touchdown run.
  • Locke returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for the teams' fourth combined touchdown in 3:06 of game time. He also caught the conversion to give Berry the 22-14 lead it held until midway through the fourth quarter.
  • "We gave them 22 points in the first half," Williams said. "It wasn’t nothing that they did in the first half; it was all us. The message will be if you play like that in the first half [and] give people the opportunity, you can lose.”
  • Pickens County sophomore Jamarian Cohen intercepted Kizzire in the first half.