In last year’s Class 1A second round state football playoff game against Lynn, the Panthers were trailing with less than a minute to go in the game before making a dramatic comeback to snatch the win.
On Friday, it was déjà vu against Region 7 rival Spring Garden. And, just like in that playoff game against Lynn, Collinsville made just enough plays in a short amount of time to squeak out a win.
Collinsville senior quarterback C.J. Jones tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Edgar Padilla with 55.6 seconds remaining, lifting the No. 10 Panthers to a thrilling 45-41 homecoming win over ninth-ranked Spring Garden.
“We’ve been there, done that before,” said Padilla, who helped Collinsville improve to 6-1 on the season (5-1 Region 7). “We knew we could do it again, especially on homecoming. We knew Spring Garden was undefeated and they were going to come in here fired up, but our coaches tell us when the going gets tough, forget everything and just keep going. That’s what we had to do tonight.”
Collinsville coach Alan Beckett said he was proud of how well his team responded in the clutch against Spring Garden (6-1, 5-1).
“We talk adversity all the time, and I thought we did a good job with that,” Beckett said. “We call it flipping the switch. We said, ‘Next play, here we go.’”
Padilla’s game-winning touchdown was set up by a 44-yard catch by senior running back Justin Little.
Little came up big when Jones pump faked on a throw in Padilla’s direction. Spring Garden’s defenders bit, leaving Little wide open. He made the catch and raced 44 yards to the Spring Garden 2-yard line.
“Edgar’s a dynamic receiver, so they thought he was going to get the ball the whole time,” Jones said. “I pump faked to him, and that just got Justin wide open. I couldn’t have gotten it to Justin without the line blocking. They gave me all the time I needed.”
After a 1-yard rush by senior running back Daniel Bradford and a Collinsville 5-yard penalty, Jones connected with Padilla for the touchdown.
“Justin made a great catch and got us down there, and C.J. just put it where it needed to be,” Padilla said.
Jones completed 10 of 18 pass attempts for 237 yards and four touchdowns. His top target of the night was senior receiver Deshawn Moore, who caught seven passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns.
Collinsville’s comeback spoiled a hard-fought effort by Spring Garden senior running back Forrest Livingston. Livingston rushed for 258 yards on 34 carries and scored four touchdowns.
“I’d take No. 1 (Livingston) over anybody in the state,” Spring Garden coach Jason Howard said. “He brings the intensity. He brings the hustle. He’s a leader, and he showed it tonight. Forrest said ‘Hey, put it on my shoulders’ and we rode him. He did everything we asked him to do. He didn’t have anything left in his tank.”
With his grind-it-out performance Friday, Livingston earned Padilla’s respect.
“He’s a heck of a ball carrier,” Padilla said. “He keeps his feet moving. He’s a big guy and he’s going to do whatever it takes to win, but our team didn’t give up. They kept going and going.”
Livingston set the tone early, scoring his first touchdown on a 27-yard run on just the second play of the game. Will Penton’s extra point was no good, but Spring Garden held a 6-0 lead with 11:28 to go in the opening quarter.
Jones connected with Moore on Collinsville’s ensuing drive for a 19-yard touchdown. David Hernandez booted the extra point to put Collinsville up 7-6 with 7:21 remaining in the first quarter.
Little opened the second-quarter scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run at the 10:41 mark, capping a 5-play, 40-yard drive. The extra point gave Collinsville a 14-6 advantage.
Livingston blasted his way into the end zone on a 41-yard burst on Spring Garden’s next possession. Livingston also ran in for the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14.
But Collinsville came roaring back to regain the lead with Little’s 20-yard touchdown run with 7:52 remaining before halftime. Hernandez’s extra point put Collinsville back out in front 21-14.
A Spring Garden fumble resulted in Hernandez’s 25-yard field goal, pushing Collinsville’s lead to 24-14.
After Spring Garden senior linebacker Dylan Watson recovered a Little fumble, the visiting Panthers drove down to the Collinsville 18 with just seconds remaining before halftime. Penton attempted a 36-yard field goal, but the ball fell short of the mark, keeping the score at 24-14 Collinsville at the half.
After Bradford dashed 36 yards on the second-half kickoff, Collinsville extended its lead to 31-14 one play later on Jones’ 30-yard touchdown toss to Moore.
Spring Garden answered with Livingston’s 3-yard touchdown rush at the 10:32 mark of the third quarter. Penton’s extra point pushed Spring Garden within 10 again at 31-21.
A squib kick resulted in Penton recovering a Collinsville fumble. Spring Garden cashed it in on Livingston’s fourth score of the night – this one an 8-yard run. With 6:24 remaining in the third quarter, Spring Garden trailed by only a 31-28 margin.
Collinsville extended its lead back to 10 at 38-28 on Moore’s 9-yard tip-toe catch, but Spring Garden responded once again on junior tailback Tyler Morgan’s 32-yard touchdown rush just before the third quarter ended. Morgan’s touchdown made the score 38-35 in favor of Collinsville.
Spring Garden’s defense finally came up with a stop early in the fourth quarter, forcing Collinsville to punt. However, the visiting Panthers were pinned inside their own 2-yard line on the kick.
The field position didn’t bother Spring Garden. It marched 98 yards in 14 plays, with the end result being junior quarterback Will Ivey’s 6-yard touchdown toss to senior tight end Jake Grogan.
With two minutes remaining in the game, Spring Garden had fought its way back out in front 41-38.
However, that set the stage for Collinsville’s 4-play, 59-yard game-winning drive.
Spring Garden had the ball one last time, but Ivey’s pass was picked off at the Collinsville 30 by Jones with 25.6 seconds left to play.
“I felt like our guys had a lot of fight in them, and I couldn’t be prouder of them tonight,” Howard said. “If they give that (effort) right there, that’s all I can ask of them, but give credit to Collinsville. They did what it took to win. We took it down and scored to take the lead (late in the game), and they go down and score to take it back.”
Spring Garden looks to rebound at Donoho on Friday. Collinsville travels to Gaylesville.