PANAMA CITY — A simple solution to put a spark in future high school football seasons: Schedule Rutherford vs. Mosley a half-dozen times.
Rutherford outlasted Mosley 31-23 Friday night at Tommy Oliver Stadium in their season finale as two schools who struggled through much of the schedule staged a rivalry game notable on many fronts.
Not the least of which, Rutherford claimed the county title. The Rams, 3-7, ended a nine-game losing streak against the Dolphins, 3-6, in the process.
It also was Mosley head coach Perry Brown’s final game with the Dolphins. If Brown chooses to coach elsewhere next year following his mandatory retirement from the state educational system, he will bring a 203-118 career record into his 36th season.
A back-and-forth offensive showcase wasn’t decided in the Rams’ favor until Dondrayas Harris intercepted at the goal line on a play that began at the Rutherford 9 with 4.8 seconds remaining.
It merely was one of many huge plays in a confrontation built up to an emotional climax befitting a playoff game.
Some highlights included Rutherford junior quarterback Dallas Harris accounting for four touchdowns running and passing and 293 total yards.
Mosley quarterback Zach Rhodes passed for all but 11 of the 166 yards in the second half, and teamed with junior receiver Nat Dixon six times for 151 yards.
And, almost incredibly, Rutherford capped a 69-yard scoring drive in which it had two long touchdown runs negated by penalty, by converting a third-and-46 with Davis tossing two long passes to Dondrayas Harris.
Harris caught seven passes for 109 yards in addition to his clutch interception.
But that still only scratches the surface.
Mosley led 10-0 early in the second quarter, junior fullback Christian Childree bruising for 52 yards of a 57-yard march on the Dolphins’ opening possession. Christian Marsh’s 28-yard field goal built the lead to 10 points on the first play of the second quarter.
Mosley lost offensive lineman Ty Kandler to a left knee injury with 1:10 remaining in the first quarter and its rushing attack was not the same thereafter.
Rutherford wrestled momentum when linebacker Austin Johnson fell on a Mosley fumble at the Dolphins’ 9, and Davis scored from the 6 three plays later.
Defensive lineman Gervante McIntyre was inserted in the backfield on third down and made the key block for Davis to score.
The Rams then marched 93 yards to a touchdown moments before halftime. Mosley helped with a 15-yard personal foul penalty, but Davis accounted for all but 4 yards of the remaining distance running and passing.
His 45-yard pass to Dondrell Harris on a post pattern set up Davis’ second TD run, this time from the 2 with 1:04 before halftime. Rutherford led 14-10 at intermission.
It became 17-10 when Dondrell Harris returned Mosley’s punt 48 yards following a stalled initial series of the third quarter. Eric Riley’s 32-yard field goal made it 17 consecutive points for the Rams, and it became 24 when Davis totaled all but 6 yards in a 67-yard drive with 11 seconds left in the quarter.
Davis scored his third touchdown, again from the 2 to make it 24-10, but Mosley wasn’t about to go quietly.
Dixon, who was listed as doubtful at midweek from an injury his suffered last week, and Rhodes nearly took over the game at that point.
Rhodes found him behind the secondary on the first play of Mosley’s next possession and 74 yards later Dixon was hauled down by Dondrell Harris at Rutherford’s 1. Rhodes sneaked in on the next play.
Rutherford’s marched the ensuing kickoff 69 yards on what had to be the strangest sequence of the season.
Curtis Williams’ 69-yard scoring run was called back by a holding penalty. Seven plays later, Davis had a 37-yard scramble to the end zone negated by another holding call. Following an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Rutherford sideline the Rams faced third-and-46 from their 29.
Not a problem. Davis passed 37 yards to Dondrayas Harris to make it fourth-and-9, and on the next play they teamed for a 34-yard TD pass with 6:33 remaining.
Again Mosley needed only two plays from scrimmage to respond. Junior Jon Doolan returned the kickoff 80 yards to the 14, and on second down from the 7 Rhodes and Dixon struck again.
It was 31-23 with 5:26 showing, and when Mosley next touched the football 1:47 was left and the Dolphins were at their 4.
Rhodes and Dixon clicked for 44, 12 and 5 yards in quick succession. Rhodes also passed 6 yards to Andrew Hardrick for a first down, and pass interference on Rutherford gave Mosley a first down at the 14 with 22 seconds left.
Defensive backs Evan Cornette and Michael McCray broke up passes to keep the Dolphins from scoring, and on fourth down Dondrayas Harris finally ended the drama.
Mosley still holds a commanding 24-15-0 lead in the series. Rutherford ended its long losing streak despite committing 11 penalties for 136 yards.