Photographs by Benjamin Krain
Pulaski Academy’s John David White (right) intercepts a pass in the end zone intended for Little Rock McClellan’s Jaylin Cunningham in the fourth quarter.
Sunday, December 3, 2017
With a little less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter and Pulaski Academy clinging to a one-point lead, it was an offensive player who started the defensive play that sealed the Bruins' 37-36 victory over Little Rock McClellan in the Class 5A state championship.
John David White, a 5-11, 160-pound junior wide receiver, came up huge for the Bruins (14-0), according to co-defensive coordinator Jason Wyatt.
"He's more of an offensive player, but we have some special packages for him on third and long and such, bring him in at the corner and he comes through." Wyatt said. "He did phenomenal tonight."
Facing a fourth and 17, Pulaski Academy quarterback Layne Hatcher punted to the McClellan 23 with 54 seconds remaining. Quarterback Tyrse Lair passed to Jaylin Cunningham in the left flat, but White stepped in to make one final big play, stripping the ball and allowing the Bruins' Brett Lynch to make the recovery.
"There were so many emotions going through my head at that time," said White, who had two interceptions earlier in the game, one at the Bruins' 14 and another in the Pulaski Academy end zone. "It was so much fun to know that all of our hard work all year had paid off."
McClellan Coach Maurice Moody said things didn't quite go according to plan for the Crimson Lions.
"We had a couple of breakdowns," Moody said. "We can't turn it over against these guys."
Pulaski Academy's defense found its footing entering in the fourth quarter as the Bruins trailed 36-23. But the Crimson Lions (10-4) would score no more.
With a fourth and 1 at the its 23, McClellan tried to run the ball outside, but defensive lineman Thomas Wheelis stopped Andre Campbell for a 1-yard loss. Campbell led the Crimson Lions with 87 yards rushing on 9 carries and also scored 3 touchdowns, one on a 50-yard run to open the second half.
"On that fourth-down play, we had a feeling they might try that play so we had two outside linebackers blitzing," Wyatt said. "In the past they have liked to run a quarterback sneak there but not this time."
Wyatt said the Bruins kept giving McClellan different looks, including slants and a five- or a six-man front. Ordinarily, the Bruins try to cram many players on the front, but that can pose problems for a secondary trying to limit gains on the edge.
"You have to keep changing techniques on them," Wyatt said. "If you stay in one look, they are going to wear you out.
"McClellan does a really good job and they bring it at you. A couple of times we needed a stop and we got it."
Sports on 12/03/2017
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