BAY ST. LOUIS – MRA’s players stood along the Patriots’ sideline with arms locked here at St. Stanislaus Stadium in the waning seconds on Friday night. A few feet back, the MRA cheerleaders did the same. Fans from both sides were on their feet, nervously awaiting the pending outcome. Coaches fretted. The score was tied, and everybody, it seemed, was on edge – except for the one guy with all those eyes on him.

“I was thinking about what I was going to do as a celebration,” MRA placekicker Carson Lindsey said, rather nonchalantly. “I was like, you know what, I’m just going to hold my finger up and point to the sky because that’s the only reason I’m out here, is Him. Honestly, that’s what was going through my mind.”

Turns out, Lindsey was able to carry out that celebration, and what a celebration it was. Moments later, the junior, who has been a student at MRA since K-4, calmly nailed a 39-yard field goal, breaking the tie and lifting the Patriots to an emotionally-draining, statement-making 31-28 road victory over Class 4A St. Stanislaus.

As the perfectly-stuck football split the uprights as the final horn sounded, jubilation set in along the MRA sideline and eventually spilled out onto the field where some of Lindsey’s teammates lifted him up onto their shoulders. MRA head coach Herbert Davis, who had just witnessed the biggest win of his four-year tenure at 7601 Old Canton Road, was literally tackled along the 40-yard line by assistant coaches Danny White and Kenny Williams. It was a festive, crazy scene indeed.

Across the way, St. Stanislaus star quarterback Jake Greer, who single-handedly led his team back to the cusp of winning, and the rest of the Rock-A-Chaws watched on in agony, shell-shocked in defeat. It was a great way to win, but also a painstaking way to lose.

“It was awesome,” MRA standout receiver Lee Tanner said. “This is the biggest win we’ve had since I’ve been here, as least as far as I can remember. It was a team win. It was great to see everybody jumping around. Carson making that kick, and us winning the way we did, made the night. It was crazy.”

MRA led 7-6 at the end of the first quarter, 14-6 at halftime, 21-6 early in the third and 28-12 early in the fourth quarter. The Patriots were in control at that point, or so it seemed. However, Greer and Co. came storming back with a pair of touchdowns. The first came courtesy of a 17-yard scoring pass from Greer to Thomas Williams. The second, a 2-yard run by Greer, came following a blocked punt deep in MRA territory. Greer capped both touchdowns with two-point conversion runs, the last tying the score at 28-28 with two minutes, 10 seconds remaining.

That set the stage for the MRA offense, and ultimately Lindsey’s heroics. Quarterback Pierce Smith and Co. took over at the Patriots’ 20-yard line with 1 minute, 59 seconds left and two timeouts at their disposal. In two-minute mode, Smith ran for five yards on first down, then connected with Tanner on back-to-back passes of 4 and 16 yards. The second came on a 3rd-and-6 after MRA had been flagged for a false start. Following an incompletion and another 5-yard run by Smith, Tanner hauled in a Smith pass in the middle of the field and turned it into a 33-yard gain all the way down to the St. Stanislaus 22-yard line.

Tick, tick, tick, tick . . . with the clock down to :04 seconds, Davis took his third and final timeout. In came the field goal team. The snap from Patrick Smith was a good one. Same goes for the hold from Landes Purnell, along with the blocking up front. All that was left was for Lindsey to end it, and end it he did, etching his name in MRA football lore in the process.

“I mean who knows it’s high school football, but I knew he could make it,” Davis said. “All I told him is just be smooth, stay inside it and finish. . . just like a golf swing . . . stay inside panel and finish through your target. When he does that he can hit it. He hit it solid, too. There wasn’t any doubt. That probably would’ve been good from 47 or so.”

Interestingly enough, this time a week ago Lindsey was sidelined with a severely sprained right ankle he sustained during a select soccer game the previous weekend. He was expected to miss two weeks, but he worked his way back sooner than expected thanks to hours of rehab, loads of ice and some prayer. He traded in his crutches for a boot and eventually a brace. He struggled kicking at practice throughout the week, but regained his form during warmups prior to the game.

It was the first field goal of the season for Lindsey, and fourth of his career.

“I had all of my teammates coming up to me saying ‘hey get ready, field goal, this is the time you always dream of,’” Lindsey said. “I was trying to be hype, get excited, but at the same time not be too hype, too excited. I wanted to chill and get in focus mode, that’s when I’m at my best, when I’m focused. I just went through what I always go through, just like practice. As soon as I kicked it I knew it had the distance, as long as it went straight, and fortunately it did.

“This is the biggest sports moment of my life,” he continued. “Honestly it has to be, no doubt about it. When it went through, I looked over and everybody was jumping up and down, and running at me. It was wild. I was so happy and excited for the team.”

MRA won its third straight to improve to 5-1 entering next week’s game at Parklane. St. Stanislaus dropped to 2-3. The Rock-A-Chaws will play a return game next year at Madison.

Although MRA won its last two games by large margins, it trailed in the third quarter of both games before piling up points late to pull away. The third quarter deficits didn’t please Davis, who urged his team to play with more effort and a greater sense of urgency throughout the entire game. Apparently, that message got across. Ironically, this week MRA led by 15 points in the third quarter and 16 points with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game before staving off a late rally by the Rock-A-Chaws.

The Patriots weren’t able to cash in earlier this season when they stepped out of the MAIS, falling 27-7 at Briarcrest. This time, they did.

“Our big deal this week was believe, believe we can win a big ballgame, and trust each other,” Davis said. “We believed to the very end tonight. And we fought. That’s one thing I wanted to see. What a great game. What we wanted out of this is what we wanted out of the Briarcrest game. We wanted to win a big-time game against a great program. These guys have a great football program here, they’ve won a lot of championships, and they’ve already beat some 6A teams this year. It just tells you how big of a game this was for us. It proves we can beat a good football team.”

There were plenty of positives on this muggy night on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The offensive line performed at a high level again, providing Smith (12-of-18, 162 yards) time to throw to his favorite target Lee Tanner (10 catches, 152 yards) and opening holes for backs Jake Reeves (11 carries, 82 yards) and William Milam (12 carries, 58 yards, 2 TDs). Milam was oh-so-close to having three touchdown runs, but on MRA’s opening possession he fumbled near the goal line. Fortunately for the Patriots, offensive lineman Patton Robinson fell on the loose pigskin in the end zone. Bryce Ishee also got in on the scoring act, recovering a fumble in the end zone following a poor snap on a punt early in the second half.

MRA finished with 337 yards of total offense – 175 rushing, 162 passing – against a St. Stanislaus defense that entered yielding only 13.5 points per game. The Rock-A-Chaws, who returned eight defensive starters from a year ago including their top four tacklers, held St. Martin to only nine points, limited Biloxi to 10, and shut out Pearl River Central.

“Our O-line did a tremendous job,” Davis said. “We scored 31 points on a heckuva defense. I thought Pierce had a good game. The guy can do it. He’s been a little up and down, but tonight should give him a lot of confidence. He made a lot of big plays tonight. And so did Lee. I don’t know what to say about Lee other than big-time players make big time plays in big time games.”

Smith, in his first year at MRA after transferring from Madison Central, was in unchartered waters. A career backup, he had never been called upon to produce a game-winning drive. He passed his first test with flying colors, completing 3 of 4 passes on the final drive, including the 33-yarder to Tanner setting up Lindsey’s game-winning boot. He also extended plays with his legs on a couple of occasions.

“That’s the biggest win I’ve ever had,” Smith said. “When were up two late, and they were about to run the play for the two-point conversion, I told my guys I don’t care if they make this or not. We’re going to go down the field and score and put it away. I’m just so proud of all these guys.”

Said Tanner: “We had two minutes left, we came in and did what we had to do with our two-minute offense. Coach Davis called the right calls, Pierce made the throws, and then Carson came in at the end and made the field goal. It was awesome.”

It appeared as if MRA had St. Stanislaus buried on more than one occasion in the second half. Each time, however, Greer brought the Rock-A-Chaws back. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for 97 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of 2-point conversions. A converted linebacker in his first year as a starter at quarterback, he has been charged with the unenviable task of trying to replace record-breaking quarterback Myles Brennan, who departed St. Stanislaus as Mississippi’s all-time leader in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Brennan is now a freshman at LSU.

“He’s tough,” Davis said, when asked about Greer.

While Greer got his, he was basically a one-man show. MRA’s defense did a pretty good job of containing the Rock-A-Chaws’ other offensive options. St. Stanislaus finished with 307 net yards offensively, with Greer accounting for 283 of those to go along with all four of his team’s touchdowns.

MRA safety Jace Correro did pick off Greer once. The interception came in the second quarter, setting up Milam’s first touchdown run. Ishee’s score marked the fifth non-offensive touchdown this season for the Patriots, who had two previous defensive touchdowns to go along with kickoff and punt return touchdowns from Milam. MRA has 44 takeaways in its last 19 games dating back to last season, leading to 194 points.

Davis fought back tears as he addressed his team after the game.

“It’s a huge win for our program,” he said. “But it’s like I told the guys, the fun is just now starting. We’ve got a stretch of five tough opponents coming up, and that starts next Friday at Parklane. One thing about it, I don’t think we’ve reached our potential yet. Hopefully we can continue to get better.”