MANSFIELD — Seemingly in control, Cedarville literally threw the game away.
Mansfield grabbed three interceptions in the fourth quarter, two of which were converted into touchdowns, en route to a 33-26 comeback 3A-4 win Friday.
The win kept slim playoff hopes alive for the Tigers (4-4, 2-3) while the loss was just one more wound for the battered Pirates (2-6, 1-4).
“We had them by running the ball but I got greedy there,” Cedarville coach Mark Shelton said. “That loss goes on my shoulders 100 percent.”
First, there was Dustin Elmore’s interception of a Dylan Shelton pass at the Tiger 25 and returned it to the Pirate 41 with 6:28 left. Cedarville was ahead 26-20 at the time and was poised to score another before the interception.
Mansfield took that miscue and drove 41 yards in seven plays capped by David Ellis’ 3-yard run with 2:56 left. Christian Saygnaphay’s point-after just cleared the crossbar to give the Tigers a 27-26 lead.
Tristan Nation picked off another pass with 44 seconds left, then caught a touchdown pass on the next play from Saygnaphay to make the lead 33-26.
Cedarville had one more chance but Ellis picked off a pass near midfield on the game’s final play.
While the Pirates lost patience with its running game with a lead, Mansfield — even trailing 26-13 through three quarters — kept running the football. The Tigers gained 283 yards on 58 attempts led by Jeffery Bartlett (159 yards, one touchdown) and Ellis (113, two touchdowns).
“We had time to continue to run the ball and we felt like we were hurting doing that,” Mansfield coach Brandon Elmore said. “We needed some help and those turnovers at the end were what we needed.”
Cedarville had the game in control after three quarters. Casey Sanders scored on a 15-yard run and Shelton hit Abraham Hernandez for a 65-yard touchdown pass for a 26-13 advantage with 2:05 left in the third quarter.
Cedarville led 14-13 with a touchdown just before half. Thanks to a shanked punt and a pass interference call, the Pirates had a first down at the Tiger 27. A 22-yard pass from Dylan Shelton to Abraham Hernandez moved the ball to the 5 and on the next play, Corey Fincher scored. Cruz Rhea booted the extra point with five seconds left in the half.
Mansfield got on the board first after an impressive 11-play, 76-yard drive. Running nothing but simple dives and blasts from its Power-I formation, the Tigers finished the drive on fullback Jeffery Bartlett’s 9-yard run. A bad snap forced a desperate 2-point pass attempt that was intercepted by Cedarville which left Mansfield with a 6-0 lead.
The Pirates answered with a power drive of its own — 55 yards in 11 plays. Fincher rushed for 33 yards of the drive, including the last four yards for 7-6 Cedarville lead with 11:28 left before halftime.
Mansfield, though, answered with a 63-yard drive, capped by a 13-yard sweep by David Ellis. He took the pitch around left end and beat a defender to the end zone, diving in for the score. The Tigers retook the lead 13-7 halfway through the second quarter.