J.I. Burton slotback Kelly Thompson (34), slipping through a seam, helped the Raiders win as a rusher, a pass receiver and a punter.
WISE — In Friday’s VHSL 1A West playoff showdown with Auburn, a 53-yard punt by J.I. Burton’s Kelly Thompson set up the game-winning safety.
In the first half, Thompson turned a bobbled long snap into a 78-yard scoring run.
The Raiders (7-4), which collected a 16-7 win over the Eagles at Carl Smith Stadium, advanced to face the winner of today’s showdown between Galax and Haysi.
Thompson led all rushers with 161 yards lining up at slotback. As a receiver, he had three catches for 75 yards.
Burton quarterback Tra Adams passed for 134 yards on the night. He put the Raiders ahead 14-0 with 8:26 remaining in the third period on a 22-yard TD pass to Cobye Robbins. The wide receiver, who had four catches for 54 yards, hauled in Adams’ subsequent 2-point conversion toss.
The Eagles answered with a 10-play, 78-yard scoring drive capped by a 2-yard TD plunge by freshman running back Jeremy Nelson. Max Tomlin’s extra point closed Burton’s margin to seven.
Late in the fourth frame, Auburn looked capable of eight when it mounted a 10-play, 68-yard march inside the Burton 20. Somehow Nelson, who led the Eagles with 92 yards rushing, got separated from the football and Isaac Davis collected the fumble.
That series ended on Thompson’s longest punt of the night, which pinned Auburn at its own 1-yard line.
T.J. Dorsett tackled Seth Cox in the end zone for a safety with 2:25 left to play. Denied the inevitable onside kick recovery attempt, Auburn’s season was over.
Auburn is new to the playoffs. Coach Jack Turner ended a 39-game losing streak while leading the Eagles (6-5) from obscurity into postseason terra incognita.