The normally well-tuned General McLane football machine malfunctioned on several occasions Saturday and the Lancers’ season is over.

On the losing end of one of the gutsiest calls in the District 10 football playoff history, General McLane — committing an uncharateristic 13 penalties in the game — suffered a heart-breaking 29-28 loss to Hickory as the Hornets scored on a dramatic two-point conversion with 17 seconds left in the Class AA playoff game at Sox Harrison stadium.

After Hickory quarterback Mike Grata scored on a one-yard plunge to get Hickory within 28-27, the Hornets’ coach Bill Brest called timeout to set up the PAT.

Overtime, right? It never entered Brest’s mind.

Shocking the enthusiastic crowd, the Hornets lined up for the two-point conversation. No bluff. On a textbook flea-flicker play, split end Andrew Smith — after taking a pitch from halfback Marion Pegues on a reverse — tossed the pigskin to a wide-open Garrett Trosch in the left corner of the end zone.

OMG.

“We practice situational plays all the time and I felt very confident with this play,” said a teary-eyed Brest. “Overtime never crossed my mind. To beat a team the caliber of General McLane is fantastic. I have a great deal of respect for their football program.”

General McLane coach Jim Wells tipped his cap to Brest for the gutsy call.

“It was a dangerous play call, and you have to give them credit, they executed it,” he said. “It’s a disappointing loss, but I told the players afterwards that I’m very proud of what they accomplished this season.”

Wells witnessed a different GM squad — an out-of-sync unit. Throughout the game, the Lancers were penalized for illegal procedure and unsportsmanlike conduct numerous times.

Not your accustomed Lancers’ style football.

“For some reason, we had lack of discipline and focus (today),” said Wells. “We made some critical mistakes at crucual times.”

Including, a costly defensive breakdown on Hickory’s fourth touchdown.

Faced with third-and-nine at its own 21, Grata zipped a perfect spiral to Dionte Pope on a slant over the middle and the completion totaled 48 yards.

Grata then kept the ball in his hands — hauling the pigskin on seven of the next eight Hornets’ plays to get the ball over the goal line.

Earlier in the fourth quarter, it appeared Hickory’s season was in jeopardy of being over as Pegues lost a fumble and GM defensive tackle Alan Buckel returned it 54 yards to give the Lancers a 28-21 lead with 8:52 remaining in  the game.

“It was a devastating turnover, but our players didn’t get down ... they kept fighting,” said Brest. “They won the game for us ... not me.”

Who made the courageous call? Brest.

Game Notes: The classic battle was evenly played. Both teams recorded 17 first downs and General McLane outgained Hickory by six yards, 348-341 ... Grata was the game’s Most Outstanding Player. He rushed for 151 yards on 22 carries and completed five of eight passes for 134 yards ... Kyle Shinn and Matt Astorino were General McLane’s top rushers with 91 and 86 yards, respectively ... Hickory will play arch-rival Sharon, which knocked off Wilmington on Saturday, next weekend for the Class AA championship.

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