West Jessamine was minutes away from what could have been its first win of the season before the wheels came off and the Colts fell to Mercer County 31-28.
Mercer got a safety with 1:37 to play, then James Johnson scored from 11 yards out with 41 seconds remaining and scored the two-point conversion as the Titans rallied for a 31-28 win over the visiting Colts.
Johnson ran for 68 of his 106 yards in the second half and had three touchdowns as Mercer improved to 2-1. Austin Sparrow shook off three interceptions to throw for 184 yards and scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter.
Mercer found itself in a desperate situation late in the fourth quarter.
Devin Taylor’s 4-yard scoring run gave West (0-4) a 28-21 lead with 4:20 to go, then Te Gatobu picked off Sparrow’s pass intended for Russell Sims inside the 5 with 2:01 to play.
But Mercer dropped Taylor for a safety on third-and-16 from the Colts’ 3 with 1:37 to go to make it 28-23 — and give itself a late chance.
Mercer then got the ball at its own 35 after the kick and faced a third-and-10 when Sparrow hit Chris Goodman for 15 yards, then found Jordan Elery for a 17-yard gain and Goodman again for 12 yards. On the next play, Johnson took a handoff around the left side and beat the Colts’ defense to the corner for the 11-yard touchdown. He then caught the two-point conversion pass from Sparrow to make it 31-28 with 41.9 seconds to go.
Sparrow finished 12-of-26 for 184 yards and three interceptions.
Sims, who caught three passes for 59 yards, picked off West quarterback Ryan Horne on the game’s final play to end it. Goodman finished with four catches for 76 yards and Elery grabbed three for 37 yards.
West made all the plays late in the first half and seemed to have all the momentum going into the second half.
Carter Hahn scored on a 29-yard pass from Horne on the final play of the first half to make it 14-14. Then Robby Irgang intercepted Sparrow on the Titans’ second play of the third quarter, setting up an 11-yard scoring run from Taylor, who ran for a game-high 118 yards, and give West a 21-14 lead with 10:07 to go in the quarter.
After Sims bobbled the snap on a punt on Mercer’s next possession, West took over at the Titans’ 4-yard line and appeared poised for another score. But Lane Peavler picked off a pass that went off Irgang’s hands in the end zone to kill the drive and start Mercer’s comeback.
From there, Mercer mounted a six-play scoring drive. Johnson ran for 41 yards on the first play, then Sparrow hit Goodman for a 27-yard gain on a third-and-2. After Johnson’s 2-yard run, Sparrow took a keeper right, avoided one tackle and spun out of another to go in from 4 yards out and Mercer tied the game with 3:04 left in the third.
It was another West miscue that set up Mercer’s first score. Mac Guay recovered a squib kick on the opening kickoff at the West 33-yard line. Eight plays later, Johnson scored and Stetson Cooley’s point after made it 7-0 with 8:32 left in the quarter.
Gatobu tied the game when he picked off Sparrow’s deflected pass and returned it 23 yards for the score late in the first quarter.
Mercer responded with a 10-play, 64-yard drive, and Johnson broke a tackle at the line and went in from 10 yards out to give Mercer a 14-7 lead before West came back to tie the score at halftime.
Mercer finished with 298 yards to 260 for West and each team had three turnovers.