FAYETTEVILLE — Harry Wikoff made the most of an opportunity he knew he should never have been given.
Little Rock Central’s junior kicker nailed a 29-yard field goal as time expired Friday night, and the Tigers moved on in the Class 7A playoffs with a 37-35 first-round victory over Fayetteville at Harmon Field.
“I didn’t expect this one,” Wikoff said after a number of celebrations. “The line, the line was perfect. The hold was perfect. It was all them. They just let me get it.
“I didn’t think I would get this one. But when I did, I knew what I had to do.”
Central’s season appeared to be finished when Lawson Gunn’s fourth-down pass went beyond the outstretched hands of Parker Perry with 1:32 remaining. The Tigers had one timeout remaining, but Fayetteville still had the opportunity to run the clock out.
The Bulldogs did take a knee on four straight plays, but there was one catch. When Braden Fike took a knee for a fourth and final time, the officials quickly grouped together and ruled there was two seconds on the clock when Fike’s knee touched the ground at the Fayetteville 12.
It meant one last chance for Central and sweet redemption for Wikoff, who earlier missed an extra-point kick that could have prove costly. The Tigers then quickly rushed into position and let their junior kicker do his thing.
“We work on that situation every week — a field goal with no timeouts and the clock running when the whistle blows,” Tigers Coach Kent Laster said. “That’s exactly what happened.
“We’ve had to overcome a lot this season, but we found a way to get to the second round of the playoffs.”
Central trailed 28-14 after Fike scored on a 4-yard quarterback keeper with 5:26 remaining, but the Tigers put together 20 unanswered points to take the lead. Gunn tied the game at 28-28 on his 7-yard touchdown run with 10:08 remaining, then Samuel Franklin added a 15-yard touchdown run to make it 34-28 with 6:03 remaining before Wikoff missed the extra point.
Fayetteville drove 65 yards in 10 plays and had a touchdown pass negated by a penalty, but Fike hit Hayes Robinson with a 23-yard pass to set up Kaiden Turner’s 1-yard touchdown run. Thomas Needy added the extra point to put Fayetteville in front with 2:31 remaining, then Central drove from its 32 to the Fayetteville 34 before the drive stalled.
“I’m proud of our team,” Laster said. “Hats off to Fayetteville High. They played a heck of a game. It was a back-and-forth game, and I’m proud of our guys. They never quit.
“All the things we’ve been talking about all season long, they finally came together. We finally put together an entire game.”
Franklin had touchdown runs of 2 and 77 yards to give Central an early 14-7 lead in the second quarter, but Fike hit Dylan Kittell with 10-yard touchdown pass and tied the game at 14-14 with 38 seconds before halftime.
Fayetteville played without standout receiver Isaiah Sategna, who was injured during last week’s game against Springdale Har-Ber.