Douglas didn’t lead for a single second of its 3A quarterfinal matchup against Powell. They still left the turf victorious. On the first play of an untimed overtime, junior quarterback Trey Rinn found senior gadget player Jackson Hughes for a 10-yard walk-off touchdown and a 27-21 Bearcats victory to advance to the next round.
It looked grim to start as the Douglas offense struggled to find its rhythm. A fumbled handoff and good defense quickly put the Cats (8-1) in a 3rd-and-a-mile situation on their opening drive as Powell (4-6) overpowered the Douglas line.
A penalty on a late hit kept the ensuing Powell drive moving, and Panthers quarterback Jhett Schwahn connected on a 30-yard pass on a 4th-and-6 to set up Powell’s only score of the first half with 5:22 to play in the first quarter.
The Cats found only a little success on some big plays the remainder of the half, including a 40-yard run by senior Karson Ewing and a 23-yard scamper by Rinn, but the goal line turned into a no-fly zone as both teams picked off red zone passes in the second quarter and Powell hit the locker room with a 7-0 advantage.
“I think it all started up front,” said coach Jay Rhoades. “Powell’s D-line was a lot better than what we’ve seen the last couple of weeks – not to take anything away from those other teams. The first half, I don’t think we were ready for that change and that level of play.”
If the first half had both offenses yowling, the second had them purring. The Panthers opened the third with a punishing ground game, driving down the field for a score on a nearly 6-minute drive. Douglas answered with a touchdown of their own, taking advantage of a late hit penalty just as Powell did in the first quarter to make the score 14-7 on a pass from Rinn to senior Luke Skeen with 3:33 to play in the third.
That touchdown was the first of three scored on back-to-back-back possessions. Schwahn took three plays to connect on a 74-yard strike less than a minute later. Rinn answered back with a long completion to senior Christian Johnson and found Hughes from 11 yards out for the first of his two touchdowns on the night. Just over two minutes came off the game clock on the three scores.
“We just found a next gear and locked in,” Rinn said. “We kept our heads down and did what needed to be done. In the first half we came out lackadaisical and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Down by seven, the Cats needed stops and got them as Powell ticked off the seconds in the fourth. A huge stop on 4th-and-inches near midfield with 4:01 to play set up a 4-yard Ewing score to tie the game with 2:20 to go.
“They are a very tough group,” Rhoades said. “When they faced some adversity, they responded in a positive way and that built confidence in us in the second half… I’m so happy for these guys that they found a way to get it done in the end.”
Douglas won the toss in overtime. Set up at the 10-yard-line with four downs and a timeout to score, the clock showing zeroes, Rinn took the snap, dropped back, and looked for a receiver in the end zone. He found Hughes running a corner route on that opening play, wide open in the back of the end zone, giving the Cats their first lead of the night. Hughes missed the extra point, but a stout performance from the Douglas D-line pushed Powell back on their one chance to score and Douglas held on for the OT win.
“We weren’t locked in the first half and we were not ready to be done,” Hughes said. “I feel amazing. That was a crazy way to move on.”