Seneca scores in final minute for thrilling 36-33 win over No. 1 Lamar

By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)

Seneca football coach Cody Hilburn tried to keep Friday’s game in perspective all week – it’s just week four of the regular season.

But if the Indians’ celebration after a wild 36-33 win over Lamar was any indication, the victory was anything but ordinary.

“I told our kids I understand it’s week four but that’s a pretty good feeling for our kids to be able to knock off the number one team in the state,” Hilburn said.

Class 2 No. 5 Seneca overcame a 14-0 deficit and then trailed again in the final minute of the game before quarterback Gavyn Hoover found Ethan Altic for a 36-yard touchdown to knock off Class 2 No. 1 Lamar on Tom Hodge Field in a battle between two unbeaten teams.

And, as Hilburn alluded, there’s a chance the Indians and Tigers could meet again this year – it would come in the state semifinals in November.

Lamar (3-1) led 14-13 at the half thanks to a 17-yard reverse by Ty Willhite at the 6:53 mark in the first quarter, and a 1-yard run by Austin Wilkerson with 42 seconds left in the first.

When Seneca (4-0) capped a 14 play, 65-yard drive with a Hoover-to-Conner Ackerson touchdown from the 13 with 6:22 left in the half, that snapped Lamar’s defensive streak of 13-straight shutout quarters to begin the season.

Two plays later, Lamar fumbled at its own 42 to set up Seneca’s next score: a 17-yard run by Jackson Marrs with 3:33 left in the second quarter. The extra point hit the upright and missed.

Fourth-down plays were big throughout the game, especially in the second half, and several went Seneca’s way.

For instance: with Lamar lined up to punt from its own 29, the snap sailed over the punter’s head toward the end zone, where Marrs eventually recovered it for a touchdown at the 6:49 mark of the third quarter. Hoover passed to Hagen Ginger for 2 to make it 21-14.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS OF THE GAME

Lamar needed just six plays to answer, though, and tied the game after Joel Beshore scored on a 33-yard run at the 1:32 mark.

Seneca converted on a 4th-and-1 from its own 33 on its next drive but then stalled at the 47 and decided to punt. But Lamar was flagged for roughing the kicker, and three plays later Hoover connected with Marrs for a 38-yard catch-and-run to make it 28-21 with 11:49 left in the game.

The Tigers lined up to punt at midfield a few minutes later. Punter Alex Wilkerson walked up to the line, took a snap and lofted a pass over the middle to Cameron Sturgell, who raced to the end zone for another score.

But the extra point went wide left, and Seneca clung to a 28-27 lead with nine minutes remaining.

The Indians turned it over on downs with 5:14 on the clock and that set up a quick scoring drive for the Tigers, who punctuated it with a 10-yard Beshore run to make it 33-28 with 2:33 on the clock.

Just a few plays later, though, Seneca threw incomplete on 4th-and-3 from the 49. Lamar was called for pass interference on the play, and the very next down Hoover passed to Altic for the go-ahead 36-yard touchdown with 56 seconds on the clock.

He added a two-point throw to Ackerson for the final score, and Lamar’s last-ditch effort ran out of time.

“Biggest thing for me was we came out and fell down 14-0 right off the bat,” Hilburn said. “We had a decision to make right there. We haven’t been put in that spot this year and to see them fight back, go on a nice drive, get the turnover and go down and score and get right back into it, I think that speaks volumes for our team.”

“I think that’s two really good football teams just trading punches at the end,” he said. “Something we can do this year is throw the ball a little bit and we got put in that position a couple times tonight and we made plays.”

Lamar coach Jared Beshore said his Tigers made too many mistakes to win the game.

“It was as simple as that,” he said. “I think we shot ourselves in the foot in a lot of situations, didn’t play very good situational football and ultimately that’s what costs you in close games against really good football teams.”

Hoover completed 8-of-19 passes for 137 yards and three scores. Marrs rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown. Seneca rushed for 100 yards in the game.

Beshore completed 7-of-12 passes for 81 yards and rushed for 184 yards and two scores. Lamar rushed for 254 yards.

Lamar converted 9-of-14 third down attempts, and was 2-for-3 on fourth down. Seneca was 5-for-12 on third down and 2-for-3 on fourth downs.

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