MADISON -- Both Scott and Tolsia entered Friday night's matchup in Madison with four losses and records below .500, meaning both were basically playing for their playoff lives.
The defenses played with that type of urgency all night and, though Tolsia's offense might have arrived late to the party, it was truly a matter of better late than never.
After being held scoreless for the first three-plus quarters, the Rebels willed their way to the end zone on their final two drives, overcoming a 13-point deficit and stunning the Skyhawks 14-13 on homecoming.
Sophomore Luke Presley punctuated the comeback with a 7-yard knifing run up the middle with 1:53 left, and the Tolsia defense turned Scott away on downs to clinch the win.
By the end, both coaches were searching for words but for drastically different reasons.
"These kids fight odds," Rebels coach Mike Smith said. "We're small, we're not big, we're young -- I've got a grand total of eight juniors and seniors combined -- I play two freshmen on the offensive line . . . The only thing I can say is they played their asses off and played very hard. I'm very proud of them."
As the Tolsia offense struggled to find its legs, the defense was doing a number on the Skyhawks' ground game. That included the Cardinal Conference's leading rusher, Cameron Loftus, who rushed 16 times for just 16 yards on Friday.
As a team, Scott (3-5) averaged less than a yard per carry, picking up 23 yards on 27 carries, which placed the weight of the game on junior quarterback Bo Jeffrey's right arm.
"We knew that we had to keep [Loftus] contained and if you noticed throughout the game we constantly had edge pressure just to make him turn it back up inside," Smith said. "We knew if he got out there on the edge, he could give us problems and he got out there a couple of times but I think overall on the night we did a great job."
To his credit, Jeffrey acquitted himself nicely, throwing for 143 yards on 14 of 27 passes. And on Scott's opening possession of the second half, he caught a short pass from wide receiver and former quarterback Cody Brown and weaved his way 54 yards for a touchdown in highlight fashion.
That made the score 13-0 after Jeffrey had scored on a 4-yard run with just 31.3 seconds left in the second quarter.
Making matters more challenging for the Rebels (3-4), senior Wes Waller was making his first start at quarterback and was in a trial by fire to say the least.
The Rebels, who'd managed just 68 yards of offense in the first half, showed signs of breaking out on a drive midway through the third quarter that stalled at the Scott 26. Along the way, Tolsia recorded four first downs.