By Michael Cignoli (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
HARRISON, Ark. — Star quarterback Cole Keylon returned from an injury to lead the Harrison Goblins to their second last-minute playoff victory in as many weeks, throwing the go-ahead touchdown with 40.6 seconds remaining as Harrison advanced to the Class 5A semifinals with a dramatic 38-35 win over White Hall on Friday night at F.S. Garrison Stadium.
Injured in the first half of Harrison’s playoff opener against Camden-Fairview last week, Keylon watched his teammates engineer a dramatic game-winning drive in the final moments of that contest and score the decisive touchdown with just 21.1 seconds left to play. He was still feeling the effects of the injury on Friday night — coach Joel Wells estimated the senior was about 90 percent of his usual self — but that proved to be enough to drive the Goblins to a victory.
“This team never quits,” Keylon said. “Especially these seniors. Our ninth-grade year, I think we had like seven game-winning drives. I mean, it was crazy. This team will die before we quit.”
Harrison led 23-14 at halftime, but White Hall quarterback Caleb Taylor threw three touchdown passes — two to Kam Robinson — to rally the Bulldogs. Taylor’s final touchdown pass came on a fourth-and-4 from the 27-yard line, as he found a wide-open TK Walker with just 4:31 to play.
The Goblins were forced to punt on their next possession, but forced a three-and-out to get the ball back with 2:18 to go and took over on their own 35-yard line with no timeouts remaining.
After an intentional grounding penalty knocked the Goblins back another 10 yards, Keylon completed four of his next five passes to Noah Moix, Dylan Block, Lane Johnson and Moix again to advance to the White Hall 27-yard line with less than a minute remaining on the clock.
Keylon’s next pass was complete to Moix in the end zone, but the touchdown was called back for a holding penalty that knocked the Goblins all the way back to the 43-yard line. But the two connected on the next play for a 32-yard gain that got Harrison back within striking distance.
On first-and-10 from the 11, Keylon fooled the White Hall defense with a pop-and-go, leaving Cy Madden incredibly wide open in the near corner of the end zone. Keylon saw him immediately.
“It was one of those — especially like basketball, you have like a wide-open 3-pointer,” Keylon said. “They’re so open, you don’t want to miss him. … It’s a little nerve racking.”
Keylon lobbed a pass and Madden hauled it in easily, touching off a wild celebration that only got wilder after White Hall’s final possession didn’t generate any threats and the clock ran out.
“They’re a resilient group,” Wells said. “They’re a great bunch of kids. They think they’re going to win when they walk on the field and it shows.”
Keylon, who entered the game with 2,283 passing yards and 922 on the ground — both team-best totals, by far — finished with three total touchdowns, giving him 42 in 12 games.
After Harrison’s Brody Gillam and White Hall’s Zaire Green traded 1-yard rushing touchdowns in the first half, Keylon connected with Block for a 10-yard pass to give Harrison a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Jordin Welsh and Green traded rushing touchdowns in the second quarter before an errant White Hall snap went out of the end zone for a safety before halftime.
Trailing 23-14 at the start of the third, Jones found Robinson for 16- and 18-yard scores to shift the momentum in White Hall’s favor. But Keylon scored on a 23-yard run on the first play of the fourth, giving Harrison a 30-29 lead that held for seven minutes before Taylor struck again.
That set the stage for Harrison’s most dramatic touchdown of the season, moving the team to 11-1.The Goblins will host Little Rock Christian in the semifinals next Friday night.