After a 10-win stellar season that saw the Magee Trojans break the 2nd round curse to reach the 3rd round of the 3A Playoffs for the first time since 2000, the Trojans season has come to an end after a 35-0 loss to the Wildcats of Columbia.
This season saw Magee take the next step under the tutelage of Coach Teddy Dyess, who notched his 200th career victory against Raleigh in the 2nd round. The Trojans won nine games in year one under Coach Dyess and 10 in year two, each year making it a step further in the playoffs as the team’s trajectory appears to be trending in the right direction.
The first quarter of play was a defensive battle, as each team felt each other out after neither team revealed the depths of their playbooks in the first matchup.
After blocking a Sam Rials field goal attempt, Columbia took over at their own 44 midway through the second quarter of play. Kentrel Bullock, who was playing with a torn ACL, got the drive started with a 6-yard run to get into Magee territory early in the drive. After being stopped for no gain on 1st down, Omar Johnson turned in back-to-back runs for 5 and 14 yards to get near the Trojan redzone. Bullock reentered the game and appeared to be stopped for a short gain but managed to move the pile for a 9-yard gain to set up 2nd and short. A false start penalty forced the Cats back to 2nd and 6, where Bullock got back the penalty yardage to give Columbia 3rd and short.
A hold on the run called back Bullock’s gain and set up 3rd and long. Johnson managed to pick up enough yards to get Columbia into a 4th and 3 situation and allow the coaching staff to go for it rather than punt the ball away. Javen Moses dropped back under a great deal of pressure from the Magee defense but was able to elude tacklers for enough yards to get the 1st and move into the Trojan redzone. Johnson then picked up 3 yards, followed by a 4-yard run by Bullock to force another 3rd down for the Cats. Johnson took a handoff up the middle and ran untouched into the endzone to break the scoreless tie, giving Columbia a 7-0 lead with 4:33 left in the first half.
Matthew Thurman fielded the ensuing kickoff and moved the ball out to the Magee 42. Chandler Pittman got the drive started with a 5-yard run. Pittman then found Thurman in the middle of the zone for a 15-yard gain, but as soon as Thurman secured the catch and turned, a Columbia player's shoulder met the ball and knocked it loose allowing the Cats to regain control of the ball at their own 40. Bullock went back to work with runs of 1 and 4 yards to start the possession. Johnson then turned in runs for 4 and 2 yards to pick up the 1st and move into Magee territory. Moses stood in the shotgun formation but took his eye off the ball for a second when it was snapped, forcing it to go off his shoulder pad before he fell on it for an 8-yard loss. This was a sign of how the game would go-- the ball seemed to always bounce in Columbia's favor when a fumble occurred to allow the Cats to recover the ball either on offense or defense. Moses then dropped back and aired out a well thrown deep pass to Jamison Kelly Jr. that dropped in just over the outstretched hand of Pittman to move down to the Magee 26. Josh Sanders stepped up on 1st down and stuffed Bullock in the backfield for a loss after the big gainer. Unfortunately for the Trojans, it only delayed the drive one play as Moses hit Sadarion Magee with a swing pass out of the backfield that was taken 25 yards to the house to give Columbia a 14-0 lead that they would carry into the intermission.
After forcing Columbia into a three-and-out to start the third quarter, Sanders called for the fair catch at the Magee 27. The Magee drive got off to a good start, after a 3-yard jet sweep by Thurman drew a 15-yard facemask penalty that moved the Trojans to their own 45. Pittman then hit Jawon Shaw out of the backfield on a swing pass that picked up 6 yards, when another well placed shoulder from a Columbia tackler hit the ball and knocked it loose for another crucial Magee turnover.
The Cats took over at their own 43 and Johnson did it all from there. After picking up 17 yards on the first play of the drive, Johnson broke away for a 41-yard touchdown to give Columbia a 21-0 lead with 8:58 remaining in the third.
After being forced to punt, the Trojan defense looked to keep the game at a three score deficit and give the ball back to their offense to see if a spark would ignite. A facemask call on Magee gave the Cats a free 1st down after Bullock was stopped for no gain. Johnson then turned in runs for 4 and 2 yards to set up 3rd and 4. Cameron Sullivan made a big stop on 3rd down as he wrangled Johnson down for no gain to force the Cats to punt. Josh Sanders fielded the punt at the Magee 34 and began weaving his way down the Magee sidelines, evading tackler after tackler on his way to a 64-yard touchdown that ignited the Trojan faithful for the first time all night. However, a phantom block in the back call at the Columbia 40 negated the runback and took the points off the board. After reviewing the play on the tablet, the coaching staff saw that the block in question was clearly a legal block, but the call changed the complexion of the game for good. The Trojan drive ended in a three-and-out, giving Columbia the ball at their own 29. Joshua Brown took his turn making a two play drive as he took the first carry for a 2-yard gain and the second for a 69-yard touchdown run out of the Wildcat formation to put Columbia up 28-0 with 3:30 remaining in the game.
Magee took the following kickoff to their own 35. From there, Pittman hit Thurman with a big pass to the Columbia 42. A big pile of players surrounded where the play ended and it was deemed that again the Cats came away with a takeaway on a Magee fumble. Columbia took over at their own 44 and Bullock got the drive started with a 12-yard run. Johnson then picked up 2 and 8 yards on back-to-back carries to move the chains. After the second run by Johnson, pushing and shoving of the Magee players by the Columbia players and coaching staff quickly escalated into a massive brawl along the Columbia sideline. The Trojan defense was left to fend for themselves as the Magee players and personnel were forced to remain on their own side of the field.
Coach Dyess did what any great coach would do and defended his players, giving the hapless officiating crew an earful as his players were being unfairly treated by the men in stripes and being forced to fend for themselves against an entire team. After the dust settled, four players were ejected, one from Magee and three from Columbia. Despite the fact that the Wildcats initiated the altercation, police appeared predominantly behind the Magee benches while few to none were visible behind the Columbia bench.
After offsetting penalties were assessed, Columbia was dealt 30-yards in penalties for the other two players who were ejected for fighting on their sidelines. Once play resumed, Columbia faced 1st and 40 where on back-to-back plays, the Magee defense held them, forcing 3rd and 36. Sadarion Magee took off for a 30-yard run that nearly picked up the 1st, but came up just 6-yards shy forcing a Columbia punt.
The Magee offense took the field with a sense of demoralization after the game had been taken out of their hands multiple times over its course. After being forced to punt yet again, Magee gave Columbia the ball back at their own 40. Jonathan Wiltz turned in back-to-back 30-yard runs to put another touchdown on the board to give the Cats a 35-0 lead which would be the final.
After the game, Coach Dyess had a strong message for his outgoing Magee senior football players: "You know, you never want it to end, but 10 wins, third round of the playoffs--what can you say about that, first time since 2000 we've done that so we're taking right steps in the program. We've got to go to the weight room, we've got to get bigger, we've got to get stronger. I think that was a little bit obvious tonight. Seniors--I want them to have class, I want them to graduate, I want them to go be successful people. You know we get judged by wins and losses sometimes, but it’s about what kind of daddies, what kind of husbands, what kind of men they become, that's what it’s really all about. We all want to win. These guys here--you saw it tonight, they're winners."
When asked about the 3rd quarter altercation, Coach Dyess gave the Magee view, saying, "I really don't have any idea what it was all about. It was all over there on their sidelines. I just know all hell broke loose. Until you watch film and can evaluate it you just don't know."
Matthew Thurman was ejected from the game after the altercation for simply talking to a referee. Coach Dyess spoke about the ejections handed out: "Running his mouth, they said. You have punches being thrown. I don't understand how you eject a kid for talking to an official or talking back to an official when you had people fighting, kicking, and punching, but you know it is what it is. They had three ejected, we had one. MHSAA is going to look at the video. It could be more."
When asked what the silver lining for the season was, Coach Dyess spoke highly of his players’ progress thus far into his time at Magee. "We took the next step in out program, we want to be a State Championship program and we want to be here every year-after-year. We were 9-4 last year and 10-4 this year. Ten wins is big time any way you want to cut that. Third round of the playoffs and district 8-3A is the last one left standing. You know how MHSAA puts us all together, don't do it in basketball or baseball, that makes no sense to me, but you know that executive committee is making decisions that nobody can understand, but anyway it made us better. It made us a better football team for being in this district. This is the best district in the state and I don't care what anybody says in 3A."