E.A. Sports Today

Bulldogs kick Lions in OT

Escareno’s field goal lifts Anniston over Munford and maybe into the Class 4A playoffs

Anniston kicker Kevin Escareno is somewhere in the mayhem as the Bulldogs’ celebrate their 23-20 victory over Munford courtesy of the kicker’s overtime field goal. (Photo by Bo Hudgins/sakssportsphotography.com)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Anniston used to not have a kicker in its arsenal, a guy it could trot out to kick an extra point or salvage a drive with a field goal. It does now, and Friday night the Bulldogs were glad they did.

Kevin Escareno hit what he called the most important kick of his career when he nailed a 23-yard field in the hammer half of overtime to give the Bulldogs a 23-20 win over Munford.

“I think that was like the most important kick I’ve ever made,” he said.

Escareno had never kicked a game-winner before. It was important not only in the sense it gave the Bulldogs (2-5, 2-2) their second straight win after an 0-5 start, but it might be the kick that sends them into the playoffs.

The Bulldogs are battling with four teams for the fourth spot in their Class 4A Region 4 and the win gives them a leg up on the competition. Munford (4-4, 1-4), meanwhile, is one of those teams and will now need “a lot of craziness” to happen to get in a tiebreaker.The fourth-place team in the region is likely to draw a trip to Mobile Christian for its opening-round game.

“I didn’t know we got to the playoffs,” Escareno said of what he thought the kick meant. “I just want to thank my team because they were able to block enough for me to get the kick off.”

When the kick went through it touched off a wild celebration. Escareno was in the middle of it and all he wanted was for the players to stop hitting him.

After they did he said they said how much they loved him.

“I just got butterflies in my stomach,” he said.

The Bulldogs tied the game on Kamron Sandlin’s 5-yard run with 13.9 left in regulation, making the decision on his own – with no time outs – to pull it down and run.

It was a special game for the Bulldogs quarterback who looks like a young Jamies Winston, and he played like it meant a little more. He used to play for the Lions, but transferred to Anniston to be closer to his father. He rushed for 126 yards on 18 carries and completed seven of 13 passes for 100 yards. He ran for 90 yards in the fourth quarter, including a 16-yard run on the first play of the game-tying drive and an 18-yard run later in it.

“A lot of them doubted me, but I had to do what I had to do,” Sandlin said. “I had to put on my big boy shoes. When you’re at quarterback you’ve just got to make good decisions. Sometimes the pass don’t work and … you’ve just got to do what you got to do.”

Escareno’s extra point would have won it there and he made the kick, but it as like it never happened as the Bulldogs were flagged before the snap. His second attempt was blocked after a high snap.

On the winning field goal, the Bulldogs initially ran him out there for a 29-yard attempt, but they were hit with another penalty that added for five yards to the try. They brought the offense back out and Sandlin floated a pass for Antonio Kite in the end zone, but Munford’s Rashard Russell was all over the basketball star and called for pass interference. That’s when they sent Escareno back out again and this time his kick, into the wind, would have been good from several yards back.

‘I was a little nervous, but I had to get rid of that on the field,’ he said. “I just said we need a good snap and a good hold; that’s all we need.”

“I would have gone with Kevin all year,” Anniston coach Rico White said. “He’s done missed several, but I believe in him.”

The Bulldogs denied Munford on two red zone situations in the second quarter and stopped the Lions again from in there on the opening possession of overtime. Each of the stands was highlighted by a long negative play.

The Lions scored from the 1 early in the second quarter, but they ran 12 red-zone plays later in the quarter and gained a net six yards. The first stand reach the 3, but was thwarted by Tyrese Weathers’ 13-yard sack of quarterback Jay Tuck and an overthrown pass on fourth down. The second reached the 4 and was thwarted by Cameron Callaway’s 8-yard sack and another overthrown fourth-down pass with the clock running out.

“They saved us,” White said. “They’re my MVP. That defense played lights out the first half because we didn’t get anything going in the second quarter at all, but they did a great job.”

“That was a real killer – twice; if we punched those two in it’s a totally different game,” Munford coach Michael Easley said. “Busted plays, I know it’s football, it happens, but it can’t happen in those situations in this game. We’ve got to make a play.”

Munford got the ball first in overtime, but went more backwards than forward. Sylvester Smith slipped on the first play and lost four, but gained six on the next. Tuck went back to pass on third down, but lost the handle and six yards. On fourth down Tuck scrambled for the end zone, but was brought down by Jacques Thomas and Tahi Swink at the 6 to kill the possession and give the Bulldogs a chance.

“I hate it for the kids,” Easley said. “Our kids fought for four quarters, but at the same time if we get the ball first it’s our job to score. You’ve got to give their kid credit for hitting that field goal, but it’s our job to score when we get the ball. We’ve got to make plays.”

Anniston 23, Munford 20 (OT)
Munford                0   6   14  0    0  –  20
Anniston                7   0     7  6    3  –  23
A – Brandon Roberts 2 run (Kevin Escareno kick), 1:53 1Q
M – Corbin Smith 1 run (run failed), 11:56 2Q
M – Sylvester Smith 8 run (run failed), 8:08 3Q
A – Taishun Hall 46 pass from Kamron Sandlin (Kevin Escareno kick), 6:13 3Q
M – Peyton Gaither 9 pass from Jay Tuck (Sylvester Smith run), 0:46 3Q
A – Kamron Sandlin 5 run (kick failed), 0:13 4Q
A – Kevin Escareno 23 FG, OT

Mun (4-4, 1-4)Ann (2-5, 2-2)
201st Downs14
91Passing yds100

Anniston quarterback Kamron Sandlin turns the corner on one of his two big runs on the game-tying drive against Munford. Sandlin rushed for 126 yards, passed for 100 and accounted for two touchdowns against his former team. (Photo by Bo Hudgins)

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