Canton senior Kade Stancil caught only one pass Saturday — the one that helped knock the previously unbeaten Columbia Eagles out of the Class 4A football playoffs.
Canton got two touchdown passes in the final 2 minutes, 35 seconds, including a 74-yard TD pass from Clint Wells to Stancil with 53 seconds remaining, to stun the Columbia Eagles 27-21 and advance to the Class 4A state football quarterfinals.
“His only catch of the day, but you can’t ask for a bigger one out of your senior leader,” Canton coach Ryan Pearson said of Stancil, who worked his way behind the defense and hauled in what proved to be the game-winner.
“The play was supposed to be a flood to the left,” Stancil explained, “but (Coach) wanted me to sit back-side post to break the free safety, so if the flood didn’t work I had a shot at the end zone. I knew I could do it, but I didn’t think that I was going to get the ball, honestly.
“That was my only catch of the day.”
Canton (9-2), which trailed 21-12 with 7:36 remaining, found new life on a 40-yard TD pass from Wells to Nathan Lucas with 2:35 remaining. The extra point brought the Little Giants to within 21-19.
Columbia (10-1) recovered the onside kick, but was unable to get a second first down to keep the clock moving. Following a punt, Canton took over on its own 26 yard line and promptly took the lead when Stancil got behind Columbia safety Greg Long and scored on a 74-yard pass play.
Wells ran for the 2-point conversion to make it 27-21, but the Eagles still weren’t done after taking over at their own 16 with 48 seconds remaining.
“We just let a guy get behind us, it’s that simple,” Columbia coach Scott Horner said. “But there was more to the game than that. That’s what everybody sees, it was the end of the game, whatever. There’s nobody that feels any worse about that than No. 5 (Long), but that’s not what lost the game.
“We needed a couple more first downs.”
Trying to fight back, the Eagles used a double-pass play from Long to receiver Jordan Holmes to Mitch Daniels and got the ball to the Canton 26.
“We brought that one back from Week 2, we ran that against Waterloo to help us win the game,” Horner said. “Our kids executed, we fell a little short.”
Two plays later, the Eagles were at the 18 with six seconds remaining, but a pass into the end zone by Long was batted down by Canton’s Preston Taylor and the Little Giants held on.
Columbia trailed 12-0 in the first half, but came back to take a 21-12 lead with 7:36 remaining on Long’s 4-yard TD pass to Dylan Hildebrand that was Hildebrand’s first reception this season.
Long recovered a fumble by Canton’s Dylan Walton with 6:08 remaining to get the ball back, but Canton got a 40-yard TD pass to Lucas that helped cut the lead to 21-19.
“You can’t put it on one person,” Columbia senior all--state linebacker Owen Suedkamp said. “The chips fell where they were. That was a great team. We had an opportunity, we kind of let it slip from us.
“At the end of the day I’m proud of my team and my family. I’m going to back them no matter what and they back me.”
Columbia junior Colton Byrd ran for 199 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries while making several big plays at linebacker. Long was 19-for-35 for 183 yards with two TDs while Holmes caught eight passes for 103 yards and also had an interception on defense.
Canton will be at home in the 4A quarterfinals next Saturday against Mater Dei (7-4), which beat Herrin 47-14 on Saturday.
A fumble recovery by Canton’s Nathan Lucas late in the first quarter set up a 23-yard touchdown run by Drake Yerbic. The Eagles stopped the conversion run and also hauled down Little Giants quarterback Clint Wells on fourth-and-goal at the Columbia 2 to save another TD.
Canton ran for 294 yards Saturday, including 171 yards on 21 carries by Wells. Wells also completed six of 10 passes for 191 yards and three TDs.
Canton’s first pass of the day went for a TD as Wells fired a cross-field pass to Cameron Lucas on the left side and Lucas sprinted 32 yards into the end zone.
A 73-yard drive late in the first half highlighted by an acrobatic catch by Holmes finally got the Eagles into the end zone. Holmes’ grab put the ball at the 2 and Colton Byrd carried it in on the next play with seven seconds remaining in the first half.
Long’s extra-point cut Canton’s lead to 12-7 and he threw an 8-yard TD pass to Liam Knox late in the third quarter to put Columbia on top for the first time. An interception by Holmes set up Long’s TD pass to Hildebrand.