LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY — The casual observer would never have guessed that Kollin Mraz hadn’t taken quarterback snap in months.
Mraz, filling in for the injured Jerry Cephus, brought the Academy back from two 11-point fourth-quarter deficits as the Bumblebees pulled out a thrilling 45-42 homecoming victory over McGregor at John Glover Stadium.
“I had always been a quarterback. But before the season with Jerry Cephus, I just said put me at receiver,” said Mraz, who threw for 271 yards and four touchdowns. “We had guys step up and catch balls, and the offensive line did their job, which is the only reason I was able to do anything.
Mraz found Alex Lawton on an 8-yard touchdown strike with 15 seconds left to complete an 85-yard drive with no timeouts to overcome a 42-37 deficit.
The Bulldogs appeared to be pulling away early in the fourth quarter when fullback Chad Lorenz scored his third straight touchdown for 36-25 lead. However, Darion Franklin took the ensuing kickoff back 98 yards for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed, leaving Academy in a 36-31 hole.
McGregor pulled further ahead with a run-oriented 54-yard drive that Caleb Carmichael finished off with an 8-yard TD run for the Bulldogs’ 42-31 lead with 5:38 to play.
On the first play of the following drive, Mraz hit Jaylin McWilliams on a 65-yard scoring connection to get the Bees within 42-37.
The Bulldogs took time off the clock but were forced to punt it to the Bees, who took over at their 15 with 1:22 to play. Mraz hooked up with Lawton on a 53-yarder inside the McGregor 20 and connected with Jayden Simmons inside the 10 before hitting Lawton again in the corner of the end zone for the decisive TD.
“I’ve been in these kind of games before. But the older I get, the more my heart can’t take it,” said Academy head coach Chris Lancaster, whose team moved to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in District 11-3A-I. “Coming off a tough loss (to Lorena), we could have gotten down but these kids came back.”
Academy took the opening possession and went 70 yards in 10 plays. Mraz hit McWilliams on an improvised 15-yard fourth-down completion to the 2, where Franklin took a direct snap and plowed in the end zone on the next play. The extra-point was blocked, but Academy had a quick 6-0 lead less 4 four minutes in.
McGregor took the lead before the end of the quarter when Veandre McDaniel found Dayton Threadgill behind the Bee secondary for a 50-yard touchdown pass to make it a 7-6 game.
The Bees came back with two consecutive second-quarter touchdowns to go up 19-7. Mraz connected on four straight passes on a scoring drive of 67 yards in six plays, culminating in a 23-yard strike to a wide-open Simmons and a 13-7 lead. Then McWilliams picked off a McDaniel pass and raced it back 45 yards for a touchdown with 3:03 to go in the half for a 12-point lead.
McGregor got back within a touchdown before the half ended, needing 15 plays to travel 73 yards. The Bulldogs survived a pair sacks before McDaniel found Caleb Carmichael across the middle for a 15-yard scoring pass to pull within 19-14 just 13 seconds before halftime.
Academy scored first in the second half on Mraz’s 33-yard TD throw to on fourth down. However, McGregor scored three straight times to go up 36-25.
“Academy has been known to lay its head down, but it didn’t turn out that way this time,” Mraz said.
ACADEMY 45, MCGREGOR 42
McGregor 7 7 15 13 — 42
Academy 6 13 6 20 — 45
Acad — Darion Franklin 2 run (kick blocked)
McG — Dayton Threadgill 50 pass from Veandre McDaniel (Kaiser Medina kick)
Acad — Jayden Simmons 23 pass from Kollin Mraz (Dylan Egger kick)
Acad — Jayden McWilliams 45 interception return (kick failed)
McG — Caleb Carmichael 15 pass from McDaniel (Medina kick)
Acad — Franklin 33 pass from Mraz (run failed)
McG — Chad Lorenz 15 run (Koby Reineke pass from McDaniel)
McG — Lorenz 2 run (Medina kick)
McG — Lorenz 2 run (Medina kick)
Acad — Franklin 98 kickoff return (pass failed)
McG — Carmichael 8 run (kick failed)
Acad — McWilliams 65 pass from Mraz (run failed)
Acad — Alex Lawton 8 pass from Mraz (Mraz run)
First downs 23 13
Rushes-yards 49-211 19-28
Passing yards 275 271
Comp.-Att.-Int. 16-30-1 18-22-0
Punts-average 2-35.5 3-37.1
Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-1
Penalties-yards 6-75 8-45
RUSHING — McGregor: Chad Lorenz 31-149, McDaniel 14-23, Carmichael 3-27, Darieus Dixon 1-12; Academy: Franklin 10-18, McWilliams 1-1, Mraz 5-25, Trenton Flanagan 3-(-16).
PASSING — McGregor: McDaniel 16-30-1-275; Academy: Mraz 17-21-0-271.
RECEIVING — McGregor: Threadgill 7-152, Carmichael 4-52, Lorenz 3-45, Ashton Vining 1-10, Jaco Ables 1-28; Academy: McWilliams 5-97, Tyler Burnett 1-5, Scout Brazeal 5-33, Simmons 3-38, Franklin 2-37, Alex Lawton 2-61.