SPENCER — After losing composure and squandering a 26-point lead, Crooked Oak quarterback Shauntrel Skanes pulled his team together and put the game in his hands.
The Ruf-Nex had built the huge lead against John Marshall, only to watch it slowly fade away.
Until the 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior broke loose with 3:02 remaining for a 39-yard touchdown to seal a 35-29 victory Thursday at Star Spencer and 3-0 start to the season.
“When it was 29-29 I was a little nervous at the end,” Skanes said. “I said, ‘Pull it together guys, it's not over yet.'”
Crooked Oak's Jose Martinez effectively ended the game when he intercepted John Marshall quarterback Lenard Levingston's fourth-down pass with 1:55 remaining, ruining an impressive comeback by the upstart Bears.
“I think we relaxed a little bit when we jumped out on them,” Crooked Oak coach Dennis McCray said. “To (John Marshall's) credit, they didn't quit. They've got a really good team and both teams are really improved from last year.”
Skanes finished with 76 yards rushing and 81 yards passing. He accounted for two touchdowns, including a 47-yard pass to Sanardo Ballard to open the scoring.
But it was his big play that took back the victory from John Marshall (2-1).
“We got a lot of weapons, not just him, so they can't key on him,” McCray said. “But when the game's on the line, I feel pretty comfortable with the ball in his hands.”
John Marshall running back Lequan Swain scored from 7 yards out with five minutes remaining to tie the game, but the Bears missed the chance to take the lead when kicker Josue Carillo's extra point attempt was blocked.
Receiver Devion Smith, who finished with eight catches for 136 yards, continued his strong season and ignited the offense with three touchdown catches to help close the early gap.
Even with the loss, new John Marshall coach Rashaun Woods was pleased with his players' performance and start to the season after going 0-10 in 2012.
“It means a lot because the guys haven't had that kind of adversity yet,” Woods said. “They had it last year and they folded. It means a lot to see those guys fight the way that they did. I told them, ‘It's what I needed to see. You didn't get the win, but I saw exactly what I needed to see to know that this thing is going in the right direction.'”