CHARLESTON Five decades from now, when Mason Keener is sipping men t-shirts of sweet tea and playing with his, tell them a story about one Friday night in Charleston, Ark.You had to be there to believe it.Down to their final snap, Charleston coach Greg Kendrick called on a play the Hillbilly Ball Shirt Tigers work on every Thursday afternoon. Friday, it was a winner. Keener, the fourth player to touch the ball on what started out as a fourth and four from the Ozark 38 with 0:04 left, pitched the ball to a speeding Kaleb Fisher, who sprinted the final 8 yards to paydirt as stunned Hillbillies lay on the turf at Alumni Field. Every Thursday, we practice that play, Keener said. That’s something we’ve worked on for six years, Kendrick said. We work it every Thursday, but it’s the first time we’ve ever run it in a game. You never think it’s going to work until it works. Caudle, who passed for 272 yards, started the game’s final play by throwing a dart to Keener. He ran to the Ozark 15, and with Ozark defenders converging, pitched the ball backward toward Geoffrey Scott.
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Hats off to Charleston; they out coached us and us, Ozark coach Jeremie Burns said. We were not ready to play. After a quick first quarter, which included Charleston forcing Ozark to go three-and-out on its initial possession to start the game, the teams combined for three touchdowns in a span of minutes. Shane Turner, an unlikely candidate for a long touchdown reception, started the scoring spree by catching a short pass over the middle for a 63-yard touchdown pass. Turner, who wears No. 52 on defense, and the No. 42 jersey on offense, was virtually uncovered as he scooted down the middle of the field for an easy touchdown. Ozark didn’t take long to answer, though. Quarterback Dawson Dietz hit Bryant Burns with a drag route over the middle for a 51-yard scoring toss. Will PAT tied the Hillbilly Ball Shirt game at 7. But Charleston answered on the ensuing kickoff as Scott caught the kickoff on the fly and outraced the coverage for a 78-yard TD. Josh Taggert’s PAT gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead. Two series later, after Charleston recovered a fumble, failed to convert, then punted to the Hillbilly 10, Ozark went back to work.