WINNFIELD - For the second straight season, Episcopal’s season ended on the road at Winnfield High.
Last season, the Knights were the No. 6 seed but were upset by the Tigers, 33-22 in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs. This time around, No. 7 seed Episcopal looked to be the spoiler as they were hoping to upset No. 2 Winnfield. They came so close but fell just short, losing an overtime thriller, 27-24.
“My heart goes out to our seniors,” Episcopal coach Travis Bourgeois said. “I am very proud of how our guys played for four quarters and then some. We fought tooth and nail all night, but we just came up short at the end.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Episcopal (11-2) got on the board in the second quarter with a punishing 14-play, 83-yard drive that took 6:40 off the clock.
The Knights started at their 17 and marched down the field with big runs by running back Mike Henry and quarterback Vincent Dellocono. Henry finished off the drive with a powerful 1-yard run up the middle. The touchdown was the first points that Winnfield had given up this postseason, ending a 10-quarter scoreless streak.
Henry led the Knights with 90 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
Winnfield (13-0) struggled early on offense as false starts, high snaps and backwards running plays killed the first few drives. The WHS offense seemingly woke up midway through the second quarter when Alonzo Moore hit D.J. Chark for a 37-yard pass play.
The promising drive was nearly derailed, though, when a few plays later Moore fumbled the ball. Winnfield offensive lineman Thomas Little recovered and managed to pick up the first down. With 2:55 left on the clock, fullback DeAnthony Jackson tied the game up by powering his way up the gut on 4th and goal.
Episcopal was putting together another physical drive in the third quarter when the Winnfield defense came up with a big stop. Winnfield defensive end Michael Patterson sacked Dellocono, and the Knights were flagged for sideline warning setting up a third and long play. Dellocono’s ensuing pass play fell short, forcing Episcopal to punt. Dellocono completed 7 of 17 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown.
Winnfield’s Trey Gilbert caught the punt and ran it all the way back, picking a handful of key blocks along the way, for a 80-yard touchdown giving Winnfield its first lead of the game.
Episcopal’s next drive came to an end in the red zone. The Knights were stopped on fourth down. With the ball at the 15-yard line with one yard to go, Henry was stood up on the running play. Winnfield turned it over on downs a few plays later as they decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches from their own 25.
That proved to be a huge momentum swing as Episcopal marched down the field as Henry scored his second touchdown of the game on a 2-yard run.
Winnfield looked to have won the game late in the fourth quarter when Gilbert ran for a 17-yard touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Episcopal though came right back as Dellocono hit Brian Bridgewater for a 65-yard touchdown pass.
Episcopal got the ball first in overtime but Winnfield’s defense stepped up and made three big plays. Patterson stopped Dellocono for a 3-yard gain on first down. Detavius Williams deflected a sure-fire touchdown pass from Dellocono on second down and then the defense stuffed running back Henry for only 1 yard. Episcopal was forced to kick a field goal and Austin Couvillion booted through the 22-yard attempt.
Winnfield’s Gilbert ran for 5 yards on first down but it initially seemed that the senior running back may have fumbled. The officials ruled that he was down.
Moore ran up the middle for a 1-yard gain, setting up a third-and-4 situation. Moore took the snap and then handed it to Gilbert who busted it out and found the end zone as the stadium went wild.
“I knew that it was going to be over,” said Gilbert. “I told our defense to just give us a chance and we would bring it home. The offensive line gave me the crease I needed and I just hit it.”
“Our kids really stepped up for us tonight,” WHS coach Andy Pyles said. “We had to hold them too just a field goal. I felt that if we did that and got the ball that we were going to score a touchdown.”
“Unfortunately, in a game like this somebody is going to go home disappointed,” Episcopal’s Bourgeois said. “It is just heartbreaking right now.”