For a moment Friday night Allen Jackson’s heart sunk.
Flanagan looked like it had pulled off a thrilling upset and ended Deerfield Beach’s season when receiver Emonee Spence beat Brandon Powell in the back of the end zone for what at first was signaled as a 20-yard touchdown catch with less than 10 seconds to play.
But just as the Falcons were beginning to celebrate, a late penalty flag changed everything. Officials ruled Spence had pushed off Powell to get open and the pass interference penalty ended up sending the game to overtime where the Bucks eventually prevailed 14-7 on quarterback Danarious Graham’s 13-yard touchdown scamper to keep their undefeated season alive.
“This one took some life off me,” said Jackson, whose Bucks (11-0 and ranked 16th nationally by USA Today) will visit Miramar (11-0, 17th in USA Today) next Friday in a super-sized second round tilt.
“The thing was we’ve been here before. We’ve played in a game like this before. I knew once we got another chance to get this win that good things would happen.”
Graham (6-0, 175) made it happen on third down on the first series of the Kansas tiebreaker. He took the snap, dropped back and then sprinted toward the goal line, swerving around Flanagan safety Joshua Metullus at the five before fighting his way into the end zone.
Flanagan (9-2) had an opportunity to answer. But after losing five yards on a carry on first down and then having receivers drop passes on back-to-back plays, quarterback Ryan Stanley fired a pass into the end zone intended for junior Bradley Martin on fourth and goal. But the pass was a little short and Martin’s sliding attempt couldn’t stop the ball from hitting the turf.
“This is going to build us character,” Jackson said. “We made a lot of mistakes. It’s going to put us a little more focused. All that horseplay because you think you went 10-0 everybody is going to give us something. That’s not the way it works.”
Friday’s game might not have even reached overtime had the Falcons, making their first appearance ever in the playoffs, capitalized on a golden opportunity just before the half.
Trailing 7-0 after a Graham 21-yard touchdown pass to senior Justin Morgan, Flanagan junior Keavon Mitchell made a spectacular catch over the middle and then topped it with an even better run for an 84-yard gain down to the Deerfield Beach 1-yard line.
But the Bucks defense rose to the occasion. Stanley was stuffed on a pair of quarterback sneaks and after a penalty moved the ball to the 6, Stanley fired two passes into the end zone that fell incomplete.
Flanagan finally tied the score the third quarter when Natrone Ray recovered a Deerfield fumble at the Bucks 46-yard line. Chris Davis then punched the ball into the end zone on a 5-yard run with 5:56 remaining in the quarter.
But the Falcons won’t get their rematch with district rival Miramar. Deerfield Beach instead moves on.
“We wanted Miramar. We wanted to get them,” Jackson said. “That was our goal to see what we’re made of. They’re one of the premier teams in the county, state and in the nation. We want to see what we’ve got.”