Capital shanked its next punt for just 18 yards, giving SC the ball at the Cougars 42, but that possession was fruitless as the Black Eagles lost it on downs at the 27 with 4:39 left.
The Cougars were not able to milk the clock much, managing just one first down and punting it back to South Charleston, which took over at its own 13 with 1:57 left.
A Grier-to-Reese hookup gained 17 yards and 15 more yards were tacked on for illegal helmet contact on the tackle, placing the ball at midfield. Two plays after that, Grier found Hampton for the go-ahead score.
On its final possession, Capital made it just past midfield on a Pratt pass to Haley that gained 4 yards to the SC 47. However, with no timeouts left and players scurrying all over the field, Capital didn't have much of a chance to line up for one final play. It was twice cited for false starts, the last one coming as time expired.
Capital coach Jon Carpenter had a hard time explaining the second-half turnaround.
"We got lethargic,'' he said. "Just poor coaching, I guess, to be so good the first half and feeling so good about yourself, and to come out the second half and not be aggressive and all that. I don't know. We'll have to go back to work.
"I think we probably haven't had to play much in these other games, and we didn't have the killer instinct at the end. There's no excuse for that. That was kind of embarrassing. I think we had a rough week of practice as far as growing up and learning how to fight. That kind of derailed us all week. We kind of threw it away in the second half.''
Messinger was pleased, and slightly amazed, at the way his offensive and defensive line recovered after being whipped soundly in the first half.
"We absolutely did not think that would happen coming into this football game,'' Messinger said, "but [Capital] came out and got after it. A great performance on their part. But I think that was a little bit of South Charleston heart right there [in the second half] - and we'll take it. It might give us a little bit of momentum to get into this thing [the playoff chase].''
Pratt completed 9 of 15 passes for 147 yards, including a 47-yard toss to older brother Cliff Pratt for a TD. Haley (16 carries, 81 yards) also scored on an 8-yard run.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.