The Mark Twain football team kept its fans on edge all Friday night during the opening round of the Class 1 District 5 playoffs at home against Knox County.

The Mark Twain football team kept its fans on edge Friday night during the opening round of the Class 1 District 5 playoffs at home against Knox County.

Behind since halftime, the Tigers mounted a fierce last-minute drive to beat the Eagles 36-32, earning the right to advance and travel to play the state’s No. 1-ranked team, Monroe City.

“It was a tough game,” said Mark Twain coach Karl Asbury. “We started well, then we had some issues, but we came back strong.”

After running a fruitless drive that took up nearly half the fourth quarter, Mark Twain punted to the Eagles, and with a stalwart defense held Knox County to a short drive.

With 3:44 left, Mark Twain took over its own 31-yard-line following a punt.

After quarterback Lincoln Talbott raced 11 yards on a second-down run to the 46-yard line of the Tigers, Mark Twain stalled. Facing fourth-and-10, with the season on the line, Talbott dropped back to pass.

Then a miracle for the Tigers and a nightmare for the Eagles.

The Mark Twain receiver was knocked to the ground.

Pass interference.

The ball was placed at the Knox County 40-yard line.

With 1:20 left, Talbott ran off a tackle, took a step toward the sidelines and raced 25 yards to the 15-yard line. After a quick spiking of the ball, Talbott dropped back and fired a pass to fellow senior Conner Grossmann for a 15-yard touchdown.

Mark Twain successfully converted a 2-point conversion with a pass from Talbott to Preston Eckler to take a 36-32 lead with 1:08 left in the game.

But it was still nail-biting time for Mark Twain fans with a dramatic 20 seconds.

Knox County took the ensuing kickoff to its 40-yard line and hit on a halfback pass to the 30-yard line of the Tigers to apply pressure to the home team.

Mark Twain's Nathan Davenport couldn't have picked a better time for his second interception of the night to snatch the ball back.

Talbott took a knee twice.

Game over.

Sophomore running back Jace Barton had a huge night, running for 191 yards in the first half and totaling 212 for the night. The Tigers posted 338 yards of total offense.

“He is a special kid,” Asbury said of Barton. “He tried to do too many things in the second half, but he is a hard player. I am looking forward to having him for two more years.”

After the game, Barton said that he was exhausted and sore, but, of course, happy.

“I could not have done this without the offensive line opening huge holes for me,” he said. “They worked so hard tonight.”