Nursing a 21-14 and looking at a chance to put some heavy pressure on Jonesboro late in the third quarter, West Memphis head coach Billy Elmore faced a dilemma.
Fourth and goal from the Jonesboro 4, Elmore decided to go for the throat instead of giving his placekicker Colin Clark a chance for a chip shot field goal.
For one of the very few times all night, the Hurricane stopped West Memphis running back Cedric Loving cold for no gain and the hosts took over.
"I was kicking myself when we went for it down there," said Elmore. "I didn't like the angle from that tight. It was probably a mistake."
Elmore didn't hesitate when the perfect time came to use Clark's clutch right leg, when the senior split the uprights on a 29-yard field goal as time expired on Friday night at Cooksey-Johns Field to lift the Blue Devils to a crucial 24-21 win over the Hurricane.
The victory pushes West Memphis (3-4 overall, 2-2 in the 6A-East Conference) back into the upper division of league standings. With Jacksonville at home, a road game at Pine Bluff and the regular-season finale at home against winless Mountain Home, the Blue Devils will be the favorites for their final three contests.
Searcy (4-0 in league play) has a commanding two-game lead in conference standings.
Win out and the Blue Devils will get a first-round home playoff game.
And Clark, who has two game-deciding field goals in his career, answered the call at Jonesboro.
Set up at the left hash, Clark endured an icing timeout from Jonesboro head coach Randy Coleman.
"I prefer the middle of the field or from the right hash, but in a situation like this it doesn't matter," said a beaming Clark after the bedlam at midfield. "You don't have time to think about such things. It just feels great."
West Memphis' winning drive began at its own 41 with just 42 seconds to play and no timeouts left.
The key play was a 46-yard pass reception from quarterback Owens McConnell to senior wideout Jamual Crayton, who outleaped the Jonesboro defender on third and 10.
It gave the Blue Devils possession at the JHS 12 with 28 seconds to go.
"They told me they were going to put the ball in my hands and I just had to make a big-time play," said Crayton. "I knew the defender was going to be under me, so I had to go up and get it."
McConnell waited until two seconds before clocking the all, bringing on Clark.
"Man, (Clark's) hit a couple of big ones over the years, hasn't he," Elmore said, beaming.
Clark won a game for the Blue Devils last year on a muddy field in overtime at Jacksonville.
It was deemed a must-win clash by Elmore before the game.
Thus, he and his coaching staff were swinging from the heels, trying some things that are atypical for his team, such as an odd front and frequent blitzes on defense and several offensive series with the wildcat formation that totally threw Jonesboro off the scent.
"We went in last Sunday as coaches game-planning for this one, and to be honest there was nothing that we did tonight that was normal for us," said Elmore. "I told our coaches we are going to be big underdogs in this and we went in with the idea we have nothing to lose."
Blue Devil senior running back Cedric Loving was unstoppable all evening, especially from the direct snap. He rushed for 170 of his 236 yards in the first half.
All from 34 carries on the evening.
West Memphis battled back from deficits of 7-0 and 14-7 in the first half to take a 21-14 halftime lead. Dennis Dallas scored two Blue Devil TDs while Tyrique Thomas had the other.
The Blue Devil defense kept Jonesboro (5-2, 3-1) at bay, limiting the Hurricane to 133 yards on the ground in the first half.
WMHS will return home this Friday night to take on Jacksonville.