After Fyffe beat the Panthers by four touchdowns earlier this season, Wellborn battled through the end in the rematch at The Hill.
Fyffe slipped through with a 35-21 win in the second round of the Class 2A state playoffs. Fyffe advances with an 11-1 record, while Wellborn completed the year at 8-4.
“Our guys played with a lot of heart and played really well,” Wellborn coach Jeff Smith said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of them, and I love them. They fought for four quarters.”
After the first three quarters were played nearly flawless, with only two called penalties and zero turnovers, Fyffe took a 20-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
But the lead didn’t last long.
Wellborn, which hadn’t scored since 3:09 left in the first half, suddenly found its groove and marched straight down the field on five plays. The Panthers traveled 78 yards, picking up three first downs on the first three plays, and ended the series with Landon Machristie hitting Corri Tignor on a 36-yard touchdown pass to give Wellborn a 21-20 lead.
After the game was a defensive battle, the fourth quarter quickly turned into a shootout. Fyffe responded to the deficit with a five-play, 68-yard drive of its own, with Austin Stiefel scoring from 31 yards out. Following the 2-point conversion, the Red Devils led 28-21 and never trailed.
“I think it’s big to get back up by seven,” Fyffe coach Paul Benefield said. “They would have to have made a decision to kick or go for it if they scored again.”
On Wellborn’s ensuing drive, Tignor became Machristie’s favorite target and the quarterback connected a 20-yard pass to his receiver and later a 26-yard heave to put the Panthers on the Fyffe 7-yard line.
“I think Corey Tignor made some great catches,” Smith said. “He had the hot hand so we just kept trying to go back to him.”
Wellborn (8-4) didn’t smell the end zone for long, however.
With a little more than two minutes remaining, Will Brown intercepted a Wellborn pass 2 yards deep in the end zone on second-and-goal.
He returned it 64 yards, giving Fyffe the ball with good field position.
“Will Brown’s interception was huge,” Benefield said. “I don’t know what happens right there if that doesn’t happen.”
Fyffe iced the game three plays later when Trent Thrash scored on a 23-yard touchdown run.
“He’s a beast,” Benefield said. “He wanted to play again. He doesn’t want to stop.”
Thrash had a game-high 187 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.
Stiefel recorded 144 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Each scored a touchdown in the second quarter.
Wellborn was by led by Chantz Goodman in the first half and Machristie in the second. Goodman recorded 81 yards on 10 carries and two touchdowns, including a 70-yard run. Machristie finished the night with 145 yards through the air on 9-of-13 passing and a score. Kevin Mixon led the team with 54 yards on the ground, and Tignor finished with 70 yards and a score on three receptions.
“The kids laid it out there,” Smith said. “We’ve only got five seniors, and they couldn’t have shown better leadership than what they have.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star