ST. AUGUSTINE-Like he has done numerous times the last two seasons, when St. Augustine needed a big play Levent Sands stepped and delivered the knockout blow-helping host Yellow Jackets hold off Ridgeview 35-26 at Foots Brumley Stadium.
Twice after seeing Ridgeview seize all the momentum back, it was Sands (262 yards on 17 carries) who broke the Panthers back.
The latter of which, came after the Panthers cut the lead to two seconds into the fourth quarter as
Sands broke off an 80 yard run a play later giving the Jackets a 28-19 lead sixteen seconds later.
St. Augustine coach Joey Wiles, in his 17th year, needed Sands effort, as the Panthers shut down his go to receiver Bobby Mitchell - holding him to just one catch on the night and that wasn't until six minutes left in the game.
Ridgeview senior Josh Moore (110 rushing, 183 passing) did his best to keep the Panthers in it, driving his team into scoring position on the ensuing drive, but Moore's 41-yard field goal was blocked by D.A. Williams.
Three plays later though, the Jackets turned it back over as Andrew Hill stepped in front of Mitchell and picked off a Sandon Mims pass at the twenty-five.
Moore connected with Mitchell Galloway for a 25-yard strike cutting the lead to 28-26 with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
That's when Sands made sure that's as close it got, carrying the team on his back running off four minutes off clock gaining 49 yards on the drive, keyed by a 26-yard gain.
Sims capped the drive with a 2-yard sneak giving the Jackets a little breathing room with a 35-26 lead with 1:18 left in the game.
Sands opened the game with a bang, rumbling 70 yards on the third play of the game giving the Jackets an early 7-0 lead just 46 seconds into the game.
That score held until the start of the second quarter when Moore guided the Panthers to a potential tying score connecting with Kurae Burns for a 21-yard strike. Moore's PAT was blocked by Mitchell keeping the Jackets in front 7-6 early in the second.
St. Augustine fumbled the ball away on the ensuing offensive play and Kenny Woods picked up the loose ball and returned it 20 yards for a score as the Panthers went ahead 13-7 stunning the host crowd.
Sands and Sims had an answer though as Sands connected with Keegan Mills twice on the drive and Sims for a 41-yard play across the middle putting the Jackets into the red zone again. Sands 2-yard sneak put the Jackets ahead 14-13 with just over five minutes remaining till half.
Following a three and out from the Panthers, Sims broke off a 23 yard run putting the Jackets back into the red zone. Sims 1-yard sneak with .48 left till half gave the Jackets a 21-13 halftime lead.
A missed 39-yard field goal from Morgan Sefolk on the Jackets opening possession of the third quarter sparked the Panthers.
Moore guided the Panthers to a 80 yard drive, getting two fourth down plays to keep the drive going including a 11-yard gain on a fake punt. An 8-yard run seconds into the fourth quarter from Moore cut the lead to 21-19. Moore's two point conversion pass slipped out of the hands of a wide open Burns.
The last thing the Jackets wanted was another first round home playoff loss, after being stunned 24-9 last season.
The team who pulled the stunner, Lake City Columbia (10-1) will now host St. Augustine (11-0) next Friday in the regional semi-finals.