MACCLENNY, Fla. – Lonnie Sanders had a program-altering victory in his hands Friday night, but he just had to hang on to it.
Parker's senior defensive back did so, holding Baker County quarterback Alex Bowen three yards shy of the end zone with 29 seconds left. That fourth-and-goal play marked the second successful fourth-quarter goal line stand for the Braves, as visiting Parker held on for a 20-13 District 3-5A victory.
That places the Braves (3-2, 2-0) in an unfamiliar position — atop the district standings with Westside.
"We came out here and played with intensity," Sanders said. "We were looking forward to this when they made the schedule. This is what we wanted, and this is really big."
Parker had its first stand while clinging to the seven-point lead with 6:31 remaining. With the Wildcats facing fourth-and-3 from the Braves 4, Demetri McDougal stopped Jamarian Baker two yards short of the marker.
After Parker failed on a fourth down of its own, the Wildcats (3-3, 1-2) had one more opportunity. Baker County was set up with third-and-goal from the three but was stopped for no gain.
On fourth down, the Braves strung out an option play, and Bowen turned inside. Sanders was responsible for one of the backs, but he stayed at home when he saw the quarterback turn, and he enveloped Bowen in the middle of the defense.
After that, it was time to take a knee and savor the victory.
"That's what we worked for throughout the week," Parker coach Char-ron Dorsey said. "Those kids, they busted their behinds and worked hard every day of the week. The defense got the stands, and I'm really proud of those kids."
It was a tight contest throughout. The teams were tied at 13 at the half, and neither team made a first down for the opening 9:25 of the second half. Finally, Braves quarterback William Wyche scrambled for 26 yards of his 81 rushing yards on a third-and-20 from his own 48.
That sparked Parker. Jajuan Turner, who rushed for 77 of his 92 yards on his final 11 carries, plowed over from the 1 for a 20-13 lead.
The Wildcats had their opportunities. Baker County drove to the Braves 26 midway through the second quarter. But what seemed to be a verbal and gesture-laden feud between a Parker player and someone in the stands ended with a water bottle tossed on the field. The Wildcats were hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after that and eventually punted.
Even without injured leading rusher Scooby Graham, Baker County rolled up 141 rushing yards from Baker and 117 from Jaquan Paige. It was Paige, with runs of 55 and 36 yards, who set up those final two touchdown opportunities.
But as Parker celebrated after those goal line stands, the Wildcats were left to consider their close calls this season. The team's three defeats this season are by a combined 14 points, with the past two coming at home to district opponents Westside and Parker.
"It's as tough as you think it is," Wildcats coach Kevin Mays said. "You have to look in these kids' faces, and it means a lot to them, means a lot to us. It's not fun when you come up short."
Definitely not fun or Mays and his team, but a cause for rejoicing for the Braves. They showed they could take a big victory on the road and do it with their backs against the end zone.
"You can't crack under pressure," said McDougal, who added a couple of tackles for loss. "Work hard and you'll accomplish good things. Keep yourself to high standards, so even if we're at the goal line, we've got to believe we can stop it."
Parker 20, Baker County 13
Parker, 0, 13, 7, 0 — 20
Baker County, 6, 7, 0, 0 — 13
BC – Camron Crawford 15 pass from Alex Bowen (kick failed)
P – William Wyche 2 run (Cole Vasquez kick)
BC – Christian Taylor 34 pass from Bowen (Blake Mays kick)
P – Tyrone Williams 9 pass from Wyche (kick failed)
P – Jajuan Turner 1 run (Vasquez kick)
Category: P, BC
First downs: 17, 15
Rushes-yards: 44-184, 47-271
Passing: 83, 65
Comp-Att-Int: 10-21-0, 7-15-0
Fumbles-lost: 1-0, 0-0
Penalties-Yards: 17-124, 9-90
RUSHING — P: Turner 26-92, Wyche 10-81, Artis Maddox 4-13, Tabari Rollins 1-5, Team 3-(-7). BC: Jamarian Baker 29-141, Jaquan Paige 12-117, Bowen 6-13.
PASSING — P: Wyche 10-19-83, Turner 0-1-0-0, Rollins 0-1-0-0. BC: Bowen 7-15-0-65.
RECEIVING — P: Rollins 5-46, Williams 3-28, Turner 2-9. BC: Taylor 1-34, Camron Crawford 2-17, Carson Crawford 1-12, Levi Jewell 1-2, Baker 2-0.