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Games of 2012, No. 8: Fairfield 60, Palestine 59 (OT)

Overtime was unkind to Palestine in 2012, especially in one of the Wildcats’ biggest games of the year.

Palestine opened the 2012 season with a 24-23 home loss to Waco La Vega, then again fell victim to extra time in the de facto District 19-3A championship. Fairfield coach John Bachtel opted to go for two after a first OT touchdown answered Palestine’s going score, and it paid off, elevating the Eagles to a 60-59 win in a memorable shootout.

The hard-luck loss for Palestine is No. 8 on the countdown of the top 10 games of 2012.

Setting the stage: Both teams entered the regular-season finale with 4-0 records in 19-3A play, although Palestine was a game better overall with a 7-2 mark to Fairfield’s 6-3 record. Palestine and Fairfield were the teams expected to finish at the top of the 19-3A standings, and they didn’t disappoint. Palestine had won five consecutive games going into this meeting, three of which the Wildcats won by at least 25 points. Fairfield entered the contest on a three-game winning streak that saw the Eagles outscored their opponents 121-33.

First impressions: It was obvious early that this game was meant to a back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire affair. The teams played to a 14-14 tie after one quarter, and Palestine slipped ahead 26-21 at halftime.

In the moment: Palestine lost its halftime lead when Fairfield took a 35-32 lead into the fourth quarter, when the Eagles stretched their lead to 49-39 with less than eight minutes remaining. Palestine stormed back, scoring the next 13 points thanks to Gee Clark touchdown passes of 40 and 47 yards to Paul Barksdale, the second of which wouldn’t have been possible without a fourth-and-23 completion from Clark to Barksdale to keep the possession alive. The 47-yard touchdown gave Palestine a 52-49 lead, but Fairfield drove to set up Jacob Judd for a game-tying field goal as time expired, sending the game to overtime. Palestine opened OT with Jarrell Owens’ 15-yard touchdown run for a 59-52 advantage, but Fairfield answered with Larry Rose’s 11-yard touchdown scamper, setting the stage for Rose’s two-point run that delivered the 19-3A crown to the Eagles.

Last impressions: Fairfield used the overtime district title-clinching victory to propel them to a 21-17 first-round win over Center before falling to Lorena 42-39 in the Class 3A Division II Region III area round. Palestine started slow in its first-round matchup against Carthage, but bounced back, showing no ill effects in the second half of the heartbreaking loss the week before. Palestine almost pulled off a huge upset of the Bulldogs, coming back from deficits of 16-0 and 30-13 to cut Carthage’s lead to 30-27 in the closing minutes before falling just short and finishing the season 7-4.

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