By Jonathan Deal
Dillon Miller ran for more than 100 yards, but West Limestone (6-3, 4-3) needed one more to beat Haleyville (8-1, 6-1) Friday. Miller’s 2-point conversion run with less than a second remaining came up just short as the Lions held on for a 28-27 win over West Limestone.
Miller put in a gritty performance, accounting for more than half of the Wildcats’ points, but it was not enough as Haleyville held on in the bitter cold to claim a Class 4A Region 8 championship.
“Everybody played hard on both teams tonight,” said West Limestone head coach David Arnsparger.
The visitors reeled off 21 unanswered points in the second half to stun the West Limestone and take a 28-21 lead with 25 seconds remaining in the game. It was Haleyville’s first lead of the game and came off a 25-yard halfback pass from Jason Self to Jeffrey Posey.
Miller returned the ensuing kickoff into Lions’ territory and quarterback Drew Blakely found Mathew Reyer two plays later down the home sideline for a 41-yard pass with 8 seconds left that set up West at the Haleyville 4-yard line.
With two timeouts in their pocket, the Wildcats were able to run Miller up the middle to reach the 1-yard line. Tucker McCormick plunged across the goal line with .04 on the clock to set up the final two-point try.
“That was just one of our base plays,” Arnsparger said about the two-point attempt. “We had scored off it all year and Haleyville just did a good job and stopped it there.”
West Limestone already had an extra-point blocked after the second-touchdown of the game, making the decision to go for the win a little easier for Arnsparger.
Miller scored on the first play of the game on a 58-yard run off a toss sweep in which he made several cuts down the home sideline, finally weaving into the end zone.
“The coaches wanted to show an exotic look,” Miller said about the formation to start the game. “That was something new, I just ran to open space.”
After Haleyville tied the score on its first possession, Blakely connected with Miller for a 10-yard touchdown mid way through the second quarter.
The senior running back finished with 15 carries for 107 yards and four catches for 27 yards with two total touchdowns and a two-point conversion run.
Blakely gave West the lead just before the half on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Reed Blankenship. The scored capped an 11-play 99-yard drive that was set up by a Stevie Romero interception at the Wildcats’ 1-yard line.
The touchdown gave West momentum and a commanding 21-7 lead at the break.
One play in the opening minutes of the third quarter swung the momentum back to Haleyville and let the visitors back in the game.
On their opening possession of the second half, the Lions faced a third and 25 after penalties backed them up to their own 11-yard line. Self caught what looked like harmless screen pass from quarterback Conner Kiser and took it 89 yards for a score.
Self scored again on Haleyville’s next possession from four yards out to tie the score with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.
Self finished with four touchdowns – two rushing, one receiving and one passing.
The win set up an unlikely region championship for the Lions. Brooks (6-3, 5-2) was upset by Wilson (4-5, 4-3) Friday, paving the way for Haleyville to clinch first place due to a head-to-head victory over Central (7-2, 6-1).
West Limestone (6-3, 4-3) hosts Ardmore (6-3, 4-3) for its final region game. With the loss, the Wildcats finished fourth in the region and will travel to No. 5 Oneonta (8-1, 6-1) in the first round.