Last Modified: Monday, May 21, 2012 1:56 AM
One minute, the Swashbucklers are watching their playoff hopes slip away. The next, they are thinking about moving up in the standings.
That’s how it went Saturday night inside the Lake Charles Civic Center, where the Bucs first blew a 20-point halftime lead then rallied themselves for victory.
The 53-51 win over last-place Knoxville came complete with a half of great play, 25 minutes of lackluster work, a confusing two-point conversion attempt and then finally a desperation winning drive and key defensive play.
“We never make things easy,” said quarterback Freddie Harrison, who like his team was great in the first half, terrible for most of the second but perfect at the end when he had to be.
“The first half we were in rhythm, everything was going right,” he said. “We were lackadaisical in the second half. We came out flat. I don’t know why.”
Harrison gave credit to the Nighthawks, who made some nice adjustments on defense. Still, it was more about the Swashbucklers and their lack of energy.
They were lethargic and disinterested right after they caught a break on an onside kick. They were forced to call a timeout before even getting a play off.
Yet just one minute into the second half the Swashbucklers (4-5) were up 44-24 and in complete control. Then, everything began to slip away.
Shockingly, they found themselves down 51-47 with just over seven minutes left.
The drive of the season followed, but with a 53-51 lead head coach Darnell Lee elected to try a two-point conversion with 3:04 left. The Bucs failed, leaving their lead exposed to defeat by a field goal.
“That was a big drive,” said Harrison. “We have to play desperate like that every game, every play.”
Even still, the game could have been lost.
With one minute remaining, Knoxville had a fourth-and-two play just across midfield. Instead of trying a field goal to take the lead, the Nighthawks went for the first down. If they had gotten it, and since the Swashbucklers had wasted that early time out, the Hawks could have ran out the clock and tried a much closer winning field goal on the game’s final play.
“We had to stop them,” said defensive lineman John Paul Jones, who was a terror on the line most of the night. “We have to play ever play all out, just like that one.”
Willie Pritchett knocked down a pass to save the game.
“Just put my hands up,” said Pritchett.
After the game, the Bucs got even better news. Both Alabama and Columbus lost Saturday night, even improving their playoff hopes more.
With three games to play, two of them at home, the Swashbucklers have a two-game lead over Alabama for the fourth and final playoff spot. They are also within a game of capturing the third-place spot from Columbus, who they play next week at the Civic Center.
Columbus won the first meeting 75-61. The Bucs finish with a home and home series against Alabama, who they beat in the season opener in Lake Charles 56-49.
“We have to go out and play every play, every game like it is the most important,” said Jones. “We have to play like every game is a playoff game from here on out.”