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Lions win season finale on final play

James Smith Jr. scored on a seven-yard run on the game’s final play to cap a 45-yard drive, and the Halifax County Middle School football team won its season finale Wednesday with a 24-22 win at home over Ben Franklin Middle School.

Trailing 22-12 at the start of the fourth quarter, Smith scored on a 25-yard run to cut the Lions’ deficit to 22-18, and each team turned the ball over on their next possessions before Halifax took over at the Ben Franklin 45-yard line following an Eagles’ punt with 2:18 remaining.

Ten- and nine-yard runs by Smith, and a 17-yard pass completion from Smith to Sammy Stevenson helped give the Lions a first-and-goal at the Ben Franklin seven-yard line with 10 seconds remaining.

After an incomplete pass, Smith rolled to his right and dove for the pylon at the corner of the end zone ahead of a Ben Franklin tackler to score with no time remaining.

Halifax County finished the season with a 7-1 record, it’s only loss a setback at conference opponent Russell Middle School, and Wednesday’s last-second win somewhat makes up for that loss, according to Lions Head Coach Frank Shealy.

We knew this was going to be a tough fight,” said Shealy.

“We warmed up flat, and I told them the way we were warming up we were going to lose tonight.

“But they responded, which is what I like.”

Halifax took an early 12-0 lead after scoring on its first two possessions.

A two-yard scoring run by Smith capped an eight-play 57-yard drive that featured runs by Smith and Stevenson and a pass completion from Smith to Troy Hubbard.

Halifax struck again on the first play after stopping Ben Franklin on fourth down, with Smith hitting Stevenson with a 50-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter.

Ben Franklin went 75 yards in nine plays to score with 20 seconds remaining before halftime, the key play a 33-yard halfback option pass on fourth down to the Halifax one-yard line, to make it 12-6 at halftime.

The Eagles scored twice in the third quarter to take a 22-12 lead, the first score a three-yard run to cap a 40-yard drive, all on the ground, followed by the two-point conversion run.

Ben Franklin took advantage of a fumbled snap on a Halifax punt attempt to score from the one-yard line and led by 22-12 before the touchdown run by Smith made it 22-18 early in the fourth quarter.

The Lions made a few mistakes in the game, including inopportune penalties, turnovers and dropped passes, but overcame them all to get the win, Shealy noted.

“We had a dozen plays at Russell where if we made one of them we would have won the game, and we made one tonight” he added, referring to the last-second score.

“We played a tough team and we had to fight to come back and win.

“It was a great job of improving this year.  I’m excited for the guys, and I’m proud of them tonight.”