TAMPA - Chamberlain High junior quarterback Dontae Aycock stumbled off the field in the arms of assistant coach Jason Silbert, bent over in pain with tears streaming down his face.
He held two fingers centimeters apart.
"We were this close," he said.
He was. They were.
With 3.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter of a Class 5A region final Friday night at John Adcock Stadium, Chamberlain trailed 14-7 and was 3 yards away from reaching the end zone in hopes of tying or defeating Kissimmee Osceola for a trip to the state semifinals.
With no timeouts left on third-and-goal, Chamberlain lined up in the shotgun. Aycock looked for senior receiver Francisco Llanos but he was covered. As he scanned the end zone, Aycock saw a hole in the defense. He went for it but was grabbed at his ankles by Osceola linebacker Taylor Thompson. Aycock remained on his feet, however, wiggled one leg free and continued to hobble toward the end zone. Just a half-yard away, he was stood up by two Osceola defenders and driven into the ground as time expired.
As Osceola players jumped in celebration, Aycock remained on the ground. His teammates fell to their knees. The team that believed destiny was on its side fell inches short. And it hurt.
"Words can't explain," Aycock said. "This whole season, we've been talking about we're the team of destiny. At the end, time ran out for us."
Osceola (13-0) advances to face Bartram Trail in the Class 5A state semifinals Friday.
Osceola senior running back Bubba Brown scored on a 2-yard run with 1:06 remaining and the Kowboys made good on the 2-point conversion to take a 14-7 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Chamberlain receiver Fred Sykes returned the kick 20 yards to the Chiefs 40. Aycock completed four consecutive passes, three to Llanos, to put Chamberlain on Osceola's 29 with 39.4 seconds remaining. On second-and-short, Aycock scrambled for a 9-yard gain and Chamberlain was forced to use its final timeout. The Chiefs went for the touchdown on the following play, when Aycock tried to connect with Sykes in the end zone. Sykes dropped the pass, but Osceola was called for pass interference to put Chamberlain on the 10 with 20 seconds left.
Aycock found Llanos for a 7-yard pass to the 3, but Llanos couldn't get out of bounds. Aycock spiked the ball on the next play to stop the clock with 3.5 seconds left.
"I'm proud of my kids," Chamberlain coach Billy Turner said. "We took the ball all the way to the goal line. This was the third game we've lost in the last minute."
"I felt like we were going to get it in," Llanos said. "The hole opened up, and I thought Aycock was going to score."
The players believed they were a team of destiny when they defeated Wharton on a last-second field goal to win the region quarterfinal. Against the Kowboys, fate showed itself over and over again.
With 7:14 left in the fourth quarter, Chamberlain senior defensive back Justin Bell blocked a 32-yard field goal attempt. Late in the third quarter, as Chamberlain attempted to punt from its own 10, kicker Austin Pullaro was hit on the play, giving the Chiefs the first down for roughing the kicker. Osceola finished the game with 13 penalties for 90 yards.
"We've never been held to 14 points by anybody," Osceola coach Jeff Rolson said. "This team played harder and more physical than anybody. We knew it was going to be physical coming into it."
Aycock scored the lone touchdown for Chamberlain on a 1-yard run that capped a 9-minute, 30-second drive in the first quarter.
Osceola 6008-14Chamberlain7000-7 O-Brown 2 run (kick failed)
C-Aycock 1 run (Pullaro kick)
O-Brown 2 run (Brown pass from Bell)
TEAM STATISTICS O CFirst downs 109Rushing 39-209 28-80Passing 4-12-101 8-17-86Total yards 310166Interceptions by 3 0Sacks by 01Fumbles-lost 2-01-0Penalties-yards 13-90 8-40