DOVE CREEK On third-and 14, Sanford quarterback Dustin Faucette threw to a wide open Dalton Rodriguez for the go-ahead touchdown.
However, the football bounced off of Rodriguezs chest, setting up fourth-and-long at the Dove Creek 15 with four minutes to go.
Down 30-25, Sanford had to go for it. Faucette rolled left and was sacked by a slew of Bulldogs.
With the home crowd in a joyous frenzy, the mood soon turned to disgruntlement.
Dove Creek drove to its 41 and faced fourth-and-6 with 3:27 remaining. With the lead and the ball on his side of the field, Bulldogs coach Shane Baughman elected to go for it and seal the deal.
The wind was blowing so much and I know how (Dove Creek quarterback/punter) Dalton (Randolph) punts into the wind. He punts the ball so high and that wind was catching it, Baughman said. I thought to myself, Go for it and have a chance to get the first down and end the game.
Unfortunately, Dalton Randolph was tackled for loss and Dove Creek lost the ball on downs.
With 1:07 to go, the Indians had the ball with prime field position and the Bulldogs defense had to step up one last time.
The Bulldogs defense did.
Dove Creek forced Faucette into four straight incompletions. The Bulldogs ran out the clock and escaped with a narrow 30-25 win.
Everybody is 0-0 at this point in the year, Baughman said. Those guys came to play. They wanted to get into that state championship (playoff bracket) as much as us.
The Bulldogs (6-2) advanced to the 8-man round of 16 playoffs. Dove Creek is seeded eighth and will host 9-seeded West Grand (6-3) Saturday at 1 p.m.
Dove Creek went 2-for-2 on 2-point conversions against Sanford (5-4). The biggest conversion of all came on the go-ahead TD with 8:09 left in the fourth quarter. Up 28-25, Randolph stepped left and threw to a wide open Cole Baughman in the end zone. But the pass was under thrown and Cole Baughman dove for the football. After the ball appeared to hit the ground, the line judge called the controversial conversion a completion. The 2-point-play loomed large down the stretch.
That was a really good play on his part, Randolph said about Cole Baughmans heroic effort. I sent it (the ball) up on a prayer, hoping somebody was there and he came up with a great, great catch.
The Sanford defense pressured Randolph relentlessly, forcing the senior signal caller to throw four interceptions, fumble twice and was sacked twice.
But through all the mistakes, Randolph and the Bulldogs persevered and are in the playoffs.
They came up big when they had to, coach Baughman said. I wish we could match that intensity right from the beginning.
Dove Creek scored on its first drive of the game.
Tyler Ebberts took an end around to paydirt, giving the host Bulldogs a quick 7-0 lead over Sanford.
But the visiting Indians attacked with a touchdown on its ensuing drive to make the score 7-6.
From there, it was a back-and-forth postseason battle royale in this 8-man cross-divisional game.
The bigger, stronger Sanford Indians were exactly that in the first half. Sanford was the more physical team early on and took the Bulldogs out of their offensive game plan.
The offense got going late in the second when Randolph broke free up the middle for a 38-yard TD run. The QB ran in the 2-pointer and gave Dove Creek a 15-6 lead.
Rodriguez picked off Randolph on the next Bulldogs possession and the Indians cashed in. Faucette converted the turnover into six points on a 16-yard TD run. Faucettes point after attempt failed and the halftime score was 15-12 Dove Creek.
In the third quarter, Sanford marched 80 yards on its opening drive. Much of the 80 yards came on a 68-yard TD scamper by Faucette. His PAT this time was good and the Indians held their first lead at 19-15 in front of a stunned silent Bulldogs crowd.
Things got ugly when Randolph threw his fourth interception on Dove Creeks next drive.
But Randolph atoned.
The Indians drove deep into Bulldogs territory, but a bad snap sailed over Faucettes head and Randolph recovered for Dove Creek.
The Bulldogs went on a 48-yard scoring drive, capped by Randolphs 3-yard TD run. Tyson Smiths PAT gave Dove Creek a 22-19 lead.
Sanford went back on top just before the end of the third when Faucette threw to a wide open Rodriguez. The Indians receiver ran over Nick Jones and took it 70 yards to the house. The 2-point conversion failed, but Sanford led 25-22.
The Bulldogs reclaimed the lead for good in the fourth on Randolphs 1 yard keeper, setting up the final drama. It was Randolphs third TD of the game.
We came out a little too loose. Maybe over confident, Randolph said. Sanford came to play. We had to play our best ball (down the stretch) to beat them.
Dalton rushed for 158 yards on 24 carries, while younger brother Chance Randolph recorded 106 yards on 17 carries. Dalton Randolph totaled 16 tackles on defense with 3.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. Cole Baughman recorded 10 stops and a fumble recovery. Austin Carter chipped in 2.5 sacks, while Dillon Daves added a sack and-a-half.
Our defense really stepped up. Our offense played pretty terrible most of the game, Dalton Randolph said. Except for a couple big plays, our defense really played well. I was really proud of them.
Kickoff between the Bulldogs and West Grand Mustangs is Saturday afternoon at 1 in Dove Creek.