By Joe Gisondi

Just when Charleston football thought it had secured an upset win over perennial powerhouse Mt. Zion on Friday night, the bottom fell out.

The Braves ripped away the momentum and erased the Trojans’ 16-point lead by scoring three straight touchdowns in a seven-minute stretch of the fourth quarter.

The worst blow?

A 64-yard punt return with only 2 1/2 minutes left that put Mt. Zion ahead 27-23 and seemingly punctuated what appeared to be a total collapse.

But then, in an ending far more likely in a movie script, Charleston rallied in the final two minutes, driving 85 yards midst heavy rains, gusty winds and what had appeared to be an invigorated Mt. Zion defense.

A hero emerged – several actually – as one might expect in a storyline like this one.

CHS’s last-second scoring play.

Jeremiah Hayes, who compiled more than 200 combined yards for the second straight week, bulled over defenders for 24 yards on the first play. The senior running back then caught a short pass that turned into a 22-yard gain to the Braves’ 41-yard line.

After a five-yard run, he caught another pass, this one in the right flats, and raced 15 yards to the 21-yard line with 56.9 seconds left. Hayes ran two more yards before a couple of teammates took over.

Brett Spour fired a pass to Luke Nelson for nine yards and then snuck through the Braves defensive line for a first down at the 11 with just 20.9 seconds.

On the next play, Spour rolled out to his right and then lofted a pass into the right back side of the endzone where Nelson, running an out pattern, cut back in when he saw his teammate under pressure. Nelson then leaped in front of a defender and came down holding the ball with just 14.3 seconds left to put CHS ahead 30-27 after the PAT.

CHS celebrates after the final play.

The Trojans (3-5 overall, 3-3 Apollo) defense held on three plays to earn a third straight football victory for the first time since 2012.

“I told them (his players) all week from what we’ve seen in film, they were beatable,” Charleston coach Jerry Payne said. “If we keep playing like we’ve been playing the last two weeks, we can win this game. And I’ll tell you what: When we went down, they still believed and they still fought hard. They gave everything they had, and they pulled it off.”

Hayes refused to take too much credit, saying: “I just wanted it.”

Hayes gained 154 yards rushing overall on 34 carries, a 4.53 yard average. He also had six receptions for 90 yards.

“You can’t even imagine (what this means winning on senior night),” Hayes said. “This is amazing. This is amazing for me. This is going to be a key memory in my life, for sure.”

“They’re executing and playing up to their abilities now,” Payne said.

CHS players Jeremiah Hayes and Max Weber

Hayes says he reads the defense before each play to see where he might need to go when handed the ball. “I pretty much make my cuts before I actually make my cuts.”

Payne says Hayes’ success is also linked to physical strength and his mindset. “On a radio broadcast against Taylorville, they said it was an angry run. And that’s kind of what it is. He is determined. He keeps telling me ‘I want the ball.'”

Weber’s 44-yard FG proves essential

Freshman Max Weber drilled a 44-yard field goal into the wind and through rain at the end of the first quarter, which gave CHS the lead 9-7 entering the half.

“He’s a dog,” Hayes said.

Weber says he had made FGs as long as 55 yards in practice. “But when you get in a game,” he said, “it’s completely different. “When you get those pads on and you’re under the lights, it changes everything.”

“We had confidence (in Max) going this way (south into the wind) that he can make the kick,” Payne said. “And we needed the points.”

Weber’s first PAT was blocked. But he then made three others along with the key field goal.

SCORING

1234F
Mt. Zion70020 – 27
Charleston 63714 –30
QTRTIMESCHOOLPLAYMTZCHS
19:26CHSBell 31 run60
12:19MTZMcAtee 2 catch (PAT)76
20:00CHSWeber 44 FG79
37:48CHSKing 9 catch (PAT)716
410:33CHSHayes 13 catch (PAT)723
49:10CHSAdams 5 run (2-pt )1523
45:56CHSMcAtee 19 run (2-point failed)2123
42:16MTZTrimble 64 punt return (2-pt failed)2723
40:14CHSNelson 10 catch (PAT)2330

CHS INDIVIDUAL STATS

RUSHING

PLAYERATTYDS
Jeremiah Hayes34154
Cody Bell439
Brett Spour10113
Aiden Archibald12

PASSING

PLAYERCOMPATTYDSTDINT
Brett Spour132818931
Luke Bonnstetter111300

RECEIVING

PLAYERRECYDSTD
Jeremiah Hayes6901
Langdon King3551
Chet Shrader2340
Luke Nelson3231