#TBT: Late fumble return preserves Booker’s unbeaten season in 2003

Legendary Southeast High head coach Paul Maechtle compared the play to the  1978 “Miracle at the Meadowlands,” with his team playing the role of the New York Giants and Booker High’s Michael McRae portraying Herman Edwards of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Having forced two fourth-quarter turnovers to preserve a 7-0 lead at Tornado Alley on October 24, 2003, Southeast was just one minute and 10 seconds away from a crucial Class 3A-District 11 victory that would have meant the end of Booker’s undefeated season. With the Seminoles looking to run out the clock, the Tornadoes somehow forced a fumble.

McRae, then a sophomore, scooped up the football and raced 33 yards to the end zone for a touchdown, which put the Tornadoes within one at 7-6. Grant Martin’s extra-point kick enabled the game to go to the Kansas tiebreaker overtime format, with each team getting four downs from the opponent’s 10 to score and alternating possessions until a winner was decided.

Both teams were stifled on their first overtime attempts as Booker senior Brandon McRae intercepted a Southeast pass and Martin missed a 27-yard field goal. The Tornadoes took the first crack in the second overtime and turned the opportunity into seven points thanks to a touchdown pass from Anthony Salgado to Delvis Fernandez.

It looked like Southeast would counter on the first play of its second overtime, but a pass in the end zone was dropped. Southeast, which only threw the ball three times in regulation, threw three more incomplete passes and Booker recorded a 14-7 victory.

The win gave Booker its first district championship in three years and 10th playoff berth in 11 seasons from 1993-2003. The 2003 Tornadoes would become the second team in program history to complete a perfect regular season and advanced to the state semifinals, where it fell to Miami’s Monsignor Pace.

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