Yellow Jackets go head over heels into round three
Round two of the state football playoffs saw the Hayesville Yellow Jackets make the long trip to Huntersville to take on the Crusaders of Christ the King Catholic High School. Due to the approaching tropical storm Nicole, the game was moved up to Thursday, Nov. 10 in an effort to dodge the worst of the system.
The Crusaders won the coin toss but deferred to the second half, meaning the Yellow Jackets started the game on offense as rain started falling. Hayesville couldn't move the ball and Avery Leatherwood took to the field to punt the ball away. A bad snap forced Leatherwood to fall on the ball, giving CTK great field position for their first possession.
After the Jackets' defense held strong, the Crusaders went for it on fourth down and managed to convert, giving them a first and goal situation. A quick handoff to the CTK running back put the Crusaders on the board. A successful PAT made the score 7-0 in the early going.
Hayesville's drive stalled, forcing another punt. This time, Leatherwood got off a clean kick. The Yellow Jacket defense returned the favor and CTK went three and out with a punt of their own.
Junior running back Taylor McClure was the workhorse for the Jackets on the following possession. McClure pounded his way for chunks of yardage on the drive and eventually crashed across the goal line for a touchdown. Isaac Chandler's extra point attempt was right down the middle, tying the score at 7-7. That's how things stood at the end of the first quarter.
The Crusaders opened the second quarter continuing the drive they started in the first. Hayesville's defense bent but didn't break and forced a turnover on downs when CTK went for it on fourth down. The Jackets were unable to capitalize, but an outstanding punt from Leatherwood pinned the Crusaders deep in their own territory. Hayesville shut down the CTK offense, causing another punt. Unfortunately, the Jacket's possession didn't last long as a fumble gave the Crusaders the ball back just two plays later. Once again the Jacket defense was able to hold strong, keeping CTK out of the end zone and headed into halftime tied 7-7.
Quarter number three started with the Crusaders lined up to receive the kickoff. Short, quick passes sliced up Hayesville's defense as CTK started gaining yards and momentum. A fade pass to the corner, coupled with one-handed catch from a Crusader receiver put CTK back on top 13-7. The PAT was no good.
After a Yellow Jacket punt, the Crusaders were driving again when Logan Caldwell snagged an interception to give the Jackets possession and stifle CTK's scoring threat. That seemed to be the spark Hayesville needed and the offense marched down the field. As time ran out on the quarter, the Jackets were inside the five yard line.
The fourth quarter opened with a Hayesville first down which set up a first and goal from the one yard line. On the next snap, McClure hit the left side and plunged into the end zone for the score. Chandler's PAT was true, giving the Jackets a 14-13 lead.
Multiple false start penalties and a strong Yellow Jacket defense caused the Crusaders to back up into their own end zone. On a third down attempt, Hayesville's defense flushed out the quarterback, forcing him to throw the ball away and CTK had to punt from the back of their own end zone which game the Jackets great field position.
Hayesville's ensuing drive stalled and after a failed fourth down conversion attempt, the Crusaders once again had the ball. Just when it looked like CTK was going to cruise down the field, big tackles from Leatherwood and Cameron Payne stopped the Crusader's momentum. Trailing with the clock ticking down, CTK went for it on fourth down with a long pass. A pair of Yellow Jacket defenders were there to knock the ball to the ground which gave Hayesville possession.
In a big moment, Hayesville's offense remained on the field for a crucial fourth down play. Caldwell hit Leatherwood coming over the middle but the pass was knocked away, giving CTK another shot.
The Crusaders used a little razzle-dazzle for a big gain on first down and kept going to the air to pick up yards. CTK's quarterback hurled a pass out of bounds in the end zone, but instead of the pass being considered uncatchable, officials flagged Hayesville for pass interference which put the Crusaders in great field goal position. The snap was good but the kick took an extreme angle like a Yellow Jacket got a hand on it. Flags flew but when everything was sorted out, Hayesville took over and Caldwell took a knee to send the Jackets into round three with a 14-13 victory.
The Jackets will take on No. 4 seed Mount Airy in round three.