FLORISSANT – Adrian Forbes was the right man in the right spot not once, but twice, when it mattered most.
The St. Mary’s junior wide receiver recovered a fumble in the end zone and got the game-winning touchdown in the final moments to lift St. Mary's to an 18-14 win over McCluer in the Class 4 District 2 championship game on Saturday.
“I’ve been working for this moment for a long time and I’m just glad my team believed in me,” Forbes said.
St. Mary’s (10-2) claimed its first district title since 2013. The Dragons, who have won eight in a row, will play Farmington in a quarterfinal contest next weekend.
Forbes’ 42-yard touchdown catch with 1 minute, 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter capped a wild back-and-forth final frame after the defenses dominated for much of the first three quarters.
Trailing 14-12, St. Mary’s quarterback Cam’Ron McCoy led the Dragons 85 yards in just 44 seconds. He connected with Timmy Muxo for 15 yards and Chase Hendricks for 22 yards before finding Forbes for the game-winner.
“That’s a playmaker,” McCoy said of Forbes. “He wasn’t really in during this season because he came off of and injury this summer. He stepped up. He’s a big part of our team.”
The late-game drama wouldn’t have been possible without Forbes’ heads up hustle play earlier in the quarter.
After not being able to get anything going for the first three quarters against a big, physical and fast McCluer defense, St. Mary’s finally started moving the ball with huge runs by Kevin Coleman and DeShawn Fuller. On the last play of the drive, Fuller broke free from the McCluer 32, but fumbled at the one. Forbes was backing up the play and fell on the loose ball to get the Dragons on the board, cutting the Comets’ lead to 8-6.
“He’s one of the veterans of the bunch,” St. Mary’s coach Corey Bethany said. “He’s quiet and he’s a hard worker and he’s always in the right spot.”
McCluer took its next drive deep into Dragons territory, but the St. Mary’s defense stopped Comets quarterback Jaylen Gardner just inches short of the goal line on a fourth-down run.
McCoy then led St. Mary’s on a 99-yard drive. A 53-yard pass to Coleman keyed the march and McCoy found Coleman again for a 6-yard touchdown pass to give the Dragons a 12-8 lead with 4:05 left.
“I just had to trust my receivers and believe they could make the play,” McCoy said.
McCluer responded behind the legs of Gardner and Kameron Cole. The duo combined for 55 yards rushing on the Comets' next drive, capped by Cole’s 7-yard touchdown run to regain the lead for McCluer at 14-12 with 2:11 left.
“St. Mary’s has a real good team,” McCluer coach Howard Brown said. “Coach Bethany did an amazing job of trying to find spots. It was just a good game. There’s really nothing you can pinpoint. Just tip your hat to them.”
McCoy finished with 264 yards passing, with 156 of those yards going to Coleman, for St. Mary’s. Fuller rushed for 98 yards.
Cole finished with 128 yards rushing for McCluer (9-3). Gardner ran for 83 yards and passed for another 128.
Each team had a pair of turnovers as the defenses controlled the first half. St. Mary’s had just 110 total yards and McCluer had just 134.
St. Mary’s held the ball for nearly 19 of the game’s first 24 minutes, but a major factor in the time of possession advantage was offensive tempo. The Dragons were more deliberate, while McCluer went high-tempo.
“The pace that the Comets run and their offense is phenomenal,” Bethany said. “(Our defense) did a good job of challenging them and creating turnovers when we most needed it.”
Fittingly, an Elton Isom interception set up McCluer’s first touchdown in the third quarter. Gardner connected with David Collins for a 1-yard touchdown pass and again on the 2-point conversion to give the Comets an 8-0 lead.
“We had to settle in,” Bethany said. “We have a bunch of young guys and they each want to make a play. They’ve got to understand just to settle in and to play our offense.”