WESTVILLE — All Turner Pullen and Shelbyville's offense wanted was some time on the clock and another chance to prove it could get the game-winning score.

After Westville went up 44-43 in the fourth quarter of the teams' Class 2A quarterfinal game, the Rams drove to the Westville 28-yard line. But a penalty hurt the Rams and they couldn't convert on fourth-and-16.

So with two minutes remaining, the Rams' defense, which had been gashed for chunks of yardage in the second half, had to find a way to step up and get the ball back into Pullen's hands.

The Rams got the crucial defensive stand it needed and Shelbyville's offense got the ball back at its own 43-yard line with 1:01 left in the clock. Pullen became a surgeon on the field, hitting Cade Watson for 12 yards, Brett Spears for 15 yards and Kentrell Beck for 16 yards and the Rams offense was suddenly at the Westville 14-yard line with 30 seconds remaining.

That's when Shelbyville coach Bill Duckett caught Westville off guard and called a play that wasn't even in the playbook last week. Pullen took the quarterback draw and went almost untouched for a 14-yard touchdown run to give the Rams a 51-44 lead with 26 seconds left.

It proved to be the game-winning score as Beck intercepted a pass with eight seconds left and Shelbyville advanced semifinals with a 51-44 nailbiter over Westville. It was Westville's first loss of the season.

Pullen knew if the offense was given another chance, it would come through with the score it needed to advance to the semifinals.

"It was crazy. They are a great team, but I knew we had the receivers and they would get out of bounds and something great was going to happen," Pullen said. "I just knew we could come back in that game. We've done that before, marched down the field, but a minute isn't that much time. It's an unbelievable feeling."

The play Pullen scored on was a simple quarterback draw, but it wasn't put into the Rams' playbook until defensive tackle Kam Roley suggested it this week. Pullen read the linebacker perfectly and hit the right hole to go on a 14-yard scamper for the go-ahead touchdown with 26 seconds left.

"(Cameron Nicholas) is a good player and really good linebacker, but I just got to the middle, saw an open lane to the left and it felt great," Pullen said. "We just put that in this week. We were sitting in the coach's office after school and our defensive tackle put it in. Just out of the blue. But it worked and every time we ran it, we got a first down out of it."

Pullen finished with 185 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 18 carries. He also passed for 245 yards and a score.

Duckett had just as much confidence in his offense's ability to go down the field and score as his quarterback did. And he knew his quarterback could find the end zone on the draw play.

"When we got the ball back there, I felt we could go and score for sure," Duckett said. "They were selling out and sending everyone deep and we want the ball in Turner's hands there. Even if he got tackled, there were still about (20 seconds) if he didn't get the first down and we could still get a quick play off."

The game-winning drive wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for the defense. After the turnover on downs, Westville had the ball with two minutes left. One first down was all the Tigers needed to run out the clock since Shelbyville only had two timeouts left. Westville had 13 first downs in the second half, but couldn't get a 14th one.

Shelbyville led for most of the game. Pullen scored on both a 24-yard run and a 10-yard run for a 12-0 Rams lead in the first quarter, and they extended the lead to 37-14 at half when Pullen found Watson deep for a 78-yard touchdown with a minute left in the second quarter. 

But Westville caught Shelbyville off guard to start the second half, recovering two straight onside kicks and scoring on both to cut Shelbyville's lead to 37-29.

"Special teams were big for and then bad for us in the second half," Duckett said. "That's tough. That kicker, he's a big, solid dude and that's a good play for them."

Shelbyville responded and scored on a 2-yard run by Pullen, but Westville got the score back with 36 seconds left in the third quarter on a 4-yard run by Nicholas to make it 43-36. Mariage-Tucker finished with 221 yards rushing with 122 of those coming in the second half. 

"I don't know if we wore down or what," Duckett said. "We were playing similar, they are just a good running team. Credit to them."

Westville tried another on-side kick and recovered it, but the Rams stopped the Tigers drive at the 5-yard line and Westville turned the ball over on downs.

The Tigers had another shot after Shelbyville's punt, but the Rams forced Westville into a fourth-and-26 at the Rams' 46-yard line. With less than five minutes to go, Westville had to take the chance and it paid off with a 46-yard TD pass from Duncan Hathaway. The two-point conversion put Westville ahead 44-43.

Still, Shelbyville had one score left in them and Pullen's 14-yard game-winning run gave the Rams a 51-44 lead and a trip to the state semifinals where they host Maroa-Forysth at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday.

"It gives a little confidence to them," Duckett said. "It was great to see and to have the semifinal at home coming up is great."


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