Horn Lake football coach Brad Boyette will tell you the goal for his team is to finish each week 1-0.
After an evening of slipping and sliding through a rain-soaked field, seeing the footing become treacherous and passes falling through normally sure-handed palms, it took just one play, one pass and one change in fortunes that set the wheels in motion for the top-ranked Eagles to reach the one game they have put their entire season toward.
The Horn Lake Eagles will be the first DeSoto County high school football team to reach a MHSAA state championship game since Olive Branch's 6A title run in 2011, following its come-from-behind 16-7 6A North Half Championship victory over Madison Central Friday night at Horn Lake.
It was a night where weather dictated what both teams could and could not do on the field.
"This is not anything normal," said Boyette said of the conditions. "The field was extremely saturated and torn up. We had a good week of practice but there was a lot of things we had put in that we just couldn't get to."
All 16 points for the 14-0 Eagles came in the final three minutes of the game, including a safety on a last-gasp attempt at a razzle-dazzle flea flicker-type play from deep in Madison Central's territory on the final play of the contest.
"Finding a way to score twice in the last three minutes of the game was unbelieveable," said Boyette.
This will be the first time ever for a Horn Lake team to make the state championship game, which this year in 6A will be played Friday night, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. at Southern Miss.
Oak Grove will be the opponent after a 21-10 victory over Brandon in Friday's South Half Championship tilt.
It was Madison Central that slogged its way to the scoreboard first, when junior quarterback Jimmy Holiday found the end zone from nine yards out in the opening seconds of the second quarter. The extra-point kick gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead.
Madison Central actually had another chance to score in the first half, but couldn't connect with the scoreboard. Cale Nation missed a 39-yard field goal attempt that would have added three more points with 6:41 left in the half.
The Jaguars seemed to carry the play as the Eagles tried to find its footing through the first 24 minutes of the game.
However, Horn Lake's defense stepped up and shut the door on any more points denting the visitors side of the scoreboard after the Holiday touchdown.
The magical finish for the Eagles started in the last three minutes of the final quarter. Quarterback Raydarius Jones found the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown with 2:36 left in the game to tie the score at 7-7 after the extra-point kick was good.
On its next possession, Horn Lake was backed up to its own 20-yard line and appeared to be playing for overtime. But a call from offensive coordinator Tommy Ferrill turned the contest around.
An 80-yard reverse pass play connected with Octavious Williams, who avoided a couple of tacklers and crossed the goal to put the Eagles up 14-7 with 30 seconds left.
"I told him (coach Ferrill) 'no' three times on the reverse pass that we scored on," Boyette later said. "He was so persistent I said, 'run it.' What a call that was."
The Jaguars' final possession following the ensuing kickoff ended with the final play and the safety when the ball carrier was tackled in the end zone.
Boyette was reminded his team was again 1-0 for the week and he was glad his team found a way to make that happen.
"We found a way to be 1-0 this week," Boyette said. "You get to this point and you have to take something because nothing is going to be given to you."
QUISTORS FALL IN 5A NORTH: The rematch between Olive Branch and West Point for the MHSAA 5A North Half Championship became a flood of points for the host Green Wave, which defeated the Conquistadors 35-0. Olive Branch finishes its final year in 5A with a 12-2 record and both losses came at the hands of the defending state champions from West Point.
Olive Branch moves back up to 6A next season.
Friday night, West Point had a 28-0 lead at halftime and was never challenged after that, scoring a pair of touchdowns in each of the first two quarters. After a scoreless third quarter, the Green Wave scored once more in the fourth quarter for the final outcome.
During the regular season, Olive Branch led West Point in the fourth quarter before furious Green Wave rally gave them a 34-33 victory and eventually the Region 1-5A, which meant Friday's game was in West Point instead of in Olive Branch.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.