Chris Brooks/For the Times Macon County senior Isaac Belton breaks upfield for a first down during a first-quarter carry. Belton rushed for 18 yards on eight carries in the Tigers’ 26-13 loss at DeKalb County.

Chris Brooks/For the Times

Macon County senior Isaac Belton breaks upfield for a first down during a first-quarter carry. Belton rushed for 18 yards on eight carries in the Tigers’ 26-13 loss at DeKalb County.

SMITHVILLE -- With an opportunity to clinch a home playoff game for the third consecutive season, the Macon County High football team found another group of Tigers ready and willing to steal that opportunity away.

DeKalb County scored twice in a span of 100 seconds late in the contest, breaking a 13-13 tie and handing Macon County to a 26-13 loss at Dr. John L. Vanhooser Stadium on Friday evening.

It appeared that the visiting Tigers had DeKalb County pinned deep in their own end, but in reality, that's when the trouble started.

With 5:30 to play, junior Ethan Jenkins' punt pushed DeKalb County (5-4 overall, 2-1 in Region 3-4A) back to its own 6 yard line. However, the Tigers' defense gave up a 27-yard run to sophomore Nathaniel Crook on the next play, and a personal foul penalty at the end of the play moved the ball near midfield immediately.

Two plays later, junior quarterback Axel Aldino hit classmate Desmond Nokes for a 50-yard touchdown and the go-ahead score.

Tiger sophomore Cameron Houston came off the edge to block the extra point, leaving a window for Macon County (4-4, 2-1) to snatch the game away.

However, the Tiger offense -- which struggled mightily to move the ball in the second half -- was stymied on the next possession, going three and out.

"They were able to shut the run game down early in the second half," Macon County head coach Kyle Shoulders said. "We had some opportunities in the passing game but had dropped balls a little bit, and we just didn't make the plays when we needed to."

Two plays later, Crook sealed things with a 19-yard touchdown run with 2:47 to play.

Macon County led 13-6 at halftime, but DeKalb County's defense stiffened in the third quarter, holding the Tigers to negative-1 yards of total offense in the third quarter.

"Early in the game, we were getting a lot of movement," Shoulders said. "It seemed like they were doing a lot of thinking and not a lot of playing physically up front. That allowed us to get our run game going in the first half. Second half, it seemed like their big boys took over."

DeKalb County sophomore Isaac Knowles also intercepted Tiger senior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons, and that turnover set up an Aldino touchdown pass to senior Alan Munoz that tied the game at 13-13 with 55.8 seconds left in the quarter.

Macon County opened the scoring with a 14-yard touchdown run by sophomore Cameron Houston with 1:02 left in the first quarter. It capped off a 10-play, 63-yard drive aided by a third-down conversion from Gammons to junior Landon Whittemore for 12 yards and a 5-yard carry by senior Isaac Belton to extend the drive on a fourth-and-3 play.

The Tigers went for it again on fourth down on their next series, but Gammons was stopped short on a quarterback sneak inside the DeKalb County 20 yard line.

Three plays later, Aldino hit Nokes for a 67-yard score to get the host Tigers on the board. However, Munoz slipped and fell on his extra-point attempt, keeping the game tied at 6-6.

The teams then traded punts twice, with the last one setting Macon County up late in the first half as sophomore Landon Colter broke through and blocked a DeKalb County punt.

The Tigers only needed one play to break the deadlock as Gammons' toss found senior wideout Cameron Mercer in the left side of the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown with 23 seconds to play in the second quarter.

"That's kind of the name of our game really," Shoulders said. "We're going to live and die off of really good defense, ball-control offense and making a play that impacts the game on special teams. That's kind of our repertoire a little bit."

Macon County controlled time of possession in the contest, but DeKalb County finished with 354 yards of total offense compared to the Tigers' 219-yard total. Jenkins led the Tigers offensively with 108 rushing yards on 22 carries. Landon Whittemore had five receptions for 16 yards, while Belton caught two passes for 31 yards.

The Tigers went 4-of-15 on third-down-conversion attempts, though Macon County's defense did stop DeKalb County on 7 of 8 third-down tries.

Austin Robinson led Macon County defensively with seven total tackles, while Logan Whittemore added five tackles and a fumble recovery. Levi Borders had six stops for the Tigers.

Macon County has one path to a region title with a win over Livingston Academy on Nov. 1, but it would have to involve winless Cumberland County knocking off DeKalb County in two weeks. Otherwise, the Tigers will be on the road for the first round of the playoffs, traveling to face the loser of the Nov. 1 contest between Nolensville and Marshall County.

The Tigers' next stop is at White County next week, but it's a game of little consequence. White County is playing entirely a non-region schedule this season and is not eligible for the playoffs as a result. The goal there is simply to stay healthy and clean up some of the errors.

"Tonight doesn't really dictate what our overall goal is," Shoulders said. "Our goal is to make the playoffs and win a playoff game. All our goals and aspirations are still ahead of us, and there's still a lot of football to be played and a lot to go back and work for."