Just when it looked like Russell had the Royals in its back pocket, Mason County became a Royal pain for the Red Devils.
Mason County reeled off 22 unanswered points in the final six minutes to pull out a 32-28 win on Friday night at Henry R. Evans Stadium.
“It’s bigger than I can describe,” said Mason County coach David Buchanan. “This place, we have it circled. There’s been a lot of heartbreak here, and there’s been a lot of great moments here.”
Label Friday night the latter as the Royals (4-4) moved to 3-0 inside Class 3A District 6.
Mason County quarterback Jake O’Mara was instrumental in the fourth quarter revival of the Royals. He scored twice himself before handing the ball off to Jaylin Jones for the capper with 36 seconds to go.
“It’s just a situation that everybody dreams about, the fourth quarter comeback,” O’Mara said minutes after Mason County’s side of the stadium erupted in jubilation. “Especially in Flatwoods. It doesn’t get any better.”
Russell (4-3) possessed the ball with 65 yards to go after an errant kickoff and two timeouts left. However, 12- and 5-yard completions were all it could muster. The final play was a desperation heave by Lance Evans which went out of bounds as time expired.
Red Devils coach Ivan McGlone remembered only a handful of as or more devastating losses in his 37 years at the Red Devil helm. And he’s witnessed positive responses in the past.
“It’s up to the kids,” he said.
What made it even more difficult for McGlone to watch? It overshadowed an outstanding performance by senior running back Googie Hayes. Hayes tallied 191 yards on 18 carries, caught three balls for 91 yards and scored four times. He exited in the fourth quarter with a possible pulled muscle, according to McGlone — he did walk off the field under his own power.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t win it, but he had as good a performance as we’ve had this year,” McGlone said. “I hate it for the team, I hate it for him.”
Hayes followed up a Jon Kennedy fumble recovery with an 80-yard sprint to the end zone to put the Red Devils ahead 28-10 with 2:54 remaining in the third quarter.
When asked if his team grew complacent with the lead after that point, McGlone shook his head and attributed the downfall to something else.
“We started making mistakes on special teams,” McGlone said. “We didn’t punt very well late, didn’t recover the onside kick.”
Mason County blocked a punt, recovering the loose ball on Russell’s 23-yard line. Five plays later, O’Mara crossed the goal line.
The Royals then followed a Russell three-and-out — during which Hayes left — with an 11-play scoring drive behind excellent orchestration of the no-huddle offense led by O’Mara.
That set the stage for an onside kick attempt by Jacob Tompkins with 1:29 to go, his team trailing 28-25.
Tompkins executed the boot to perfection, as a slew of bodies pounced on the bouncing ball. The Royals recovered.
“I’m so happy for (Tompkins),” Buchanan said.
Rashon Nelson contributed to the final four-play drive with a 14-yard rush. Fifteen yards were tacked on after Russell committed a late hit personal foul.
Two plays later, Jones pushed his way to the end zone from seven yards out at the 36-second mark.
Buchanan said this afterward: “I think the only thing that’d be better than this — I know it sounds silly — but would be to win a state championship.
“I hope we get a chance to play again, and they may make me eat those words, but we just have great games with them. I’ve got such an amount of respect for Coach McGlone.”
Evans tossed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 5-of-10 throwing.
Hayes scored the game’s first TD at the 3:20-mark of the second quarter, moments after a small dog delayed play for a couple minutes after running loose on the field.
Nelson opened the scoring for Mason County with a 27-yard scamper with 1:24 to go in the second. He finished with 127 yards on 22 carries.
Evans fired a dart amid traffic to Hayes for a 24-yard score with five seconds left before halftime.
In the third quarter, Tompkins put Mason County’s only points up with a 35-yard field goal, while Hayes provided the scoring for Russell on two touchdowns.
The fourth quarter, though, was owned by the Royals.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at