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Strong rallies past Mountain Pine to win 2A 8-Man state title

by News-Times Staff | December 3, 2021 at 12:40 a.m.

LITTLE ROCK - Strong saved its best for last.

Facing its largest deficit of the season with 9:59 left in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs roared back from an 18-point deficit before Treveon Daniels' 10-yard run on the first play of Strong's possession in the second overtime lifted the Bulldogs to a 66-60 win over Mountain Pine in an epic 2A 8-Man state championship game Thursday night at War Memorial Stadium.

The win caps a perfect season for the Bulldogs (11-0) in their first season of eight-man football. The state title comes just a week from the 10-year anniversary of Strong winning the 2011 2A state crown.

The Bulldogs and Red Devils (8-4) met during the regular season with Strong winning 48-30 at Jerry Burson Field.

Trailing 52-34 after the Red Devils scored 32 unanswered points spanning the end of the first half and third quarter, the Bulldogs went to work.

LaQuincy Shelton, the game’s MVP who went 17-of-27 passing for 246 yards and five touchdown passes along with one rushing touchdown, connected with Shundarius Shelton on a 23-yard strike with Byron Maze’s two-point conversion pulling the Bulldogs within 52-42.

On the ensuing possession, LaQuincy Shelton recovered a fumble to give the Bulldogs the ball back, but Mountain Pine’s Ty Ventress intercepted a pass on Strong’s first play.

However, the Red Devils had to start at their 3, and Daniels tackled Keelan Dobbins for a safety to make it 52-44 with 4:01 left.

Canelius Betters, who caught touchdown passes of 16 and 59 yards for Strong’s first two scores of the game, had a 9-yard return on the free kick to put Strong in business at Mountain Pine’s 46.

The Bulldogs needed just 1:50 over five plays to tie the game with Shelton throwing an 11-yard strike to Maze coupled with Shelton’s run on the two-point conversion to make it 52-all.

Then Strong’s defense came up with the first of two game-saving stops.

A 69-yard return on the kickoff by Dobbins gave the Red Devils a first-and-goal from the 9, but the Bulldogs kept the Red Devils out of the end zone with Jonah Wilburn throwing an incomplete pass on fourth down.

In overtime, the Red Devils struck first with Isaiah Miles scoring on a 1-yard run on fourth down. Wilburn then connected with Miguel Honey on the two-point conversion to make it 60-52.

But the Bulldogs answered with Shelton finding Maze for a 5-yard touchdown pass before connecting with Betters on the two-point conversion to force the second overtime.

A holding penalty coupled with a sack by Jayme Correa, the Burlsworth Award winner for Strong, pushed the Red Devils back to the 24 before the Bulldogs came up with another stop on fourth down.

Now with a chance to win the game, the Bulldogs wasted no time with Daniels scoring on the drive’s first play.

Daniels, who finished with 126 yards on 21 carries, scored on a 12-yard run in the second quarter before returning a kickoff 71 yards to paydirt that gave Strong a 28-14 lead.

Maze caught nine passes for 65 yards with two scores, while Betters had 98 yards and two scores on four catches for the Bulldogs, who had 377 yards of total offense.

Wilburn went 6-of-13 passing for 209 yards and two scores for the Red Devils, who had 517 yards of total offense.

Dobbins had 142 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries while Miles added 118 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Miles also had 83 yards on a pair of touchdown catches.

Defensively, Shelton had 15 tackles with Maze and Correa each adding 13 tackles with the former adding three sacks.

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