by Mary Ramsaier
As the Fayette County Tigers approached Friday Night’s game, little did they know that a winless Troup County team would put up their strongest fight this season. Fayette took their punches, squeezing out a thrilling victory 37-35 on a last-second field goal to clinch a postseason spot.
With their backs firmly against the wall, the Tigers responded with a win for the ages. Trailing by one with just seconds left to play, junior James Hawkins made the play of his life, shaking off two missed extra points to drill the game-winning 37-yard field goal.
“All glory to God, I knew he was going to hit it,” said Fayette coach Mike Davis. “To come down to that was great because it really shows hard work does play off.”
Hawkins became the man of the night for Fayette County.
“I knew after missing the first two, it sucked the heart out of the defense,” said Hawkins. He knew he had to come back strong to secure the win for the Tigers. He claims the night “felt like any other day at work.”
Fayette knew that it was going to be a long, hard-fought night for a sweet victory after Troup scored the first touchdown of the night off a fumble. Troup may be underestimated by some due to their record this season, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
“The hurt us with some big plays,” said Davis. “They’ve got speed. They’ve got talent.”
The Tigers got on the board with a 28-yard field goal from James Hawkins, then surged ahead after Kevin Zachery recovered a fumble. Malek Bowe punched it into end zone on a short run for a 10-7 lead.
The Troup offense responded quickly, scoring a touchdown within a minute to take a 14-10 lead with seven minutes left in the half.
Fayette refused to go into halftime trailing. Quarterback Anthonie Powell converted a key 4th down that changed the tone for the rest of the half. Bowe scored again, giving his team a 17-14 lead.
Fayette was the first to put up points onto the scoreboard in the second half with a 22-yard Hawkins field goal, but Troup answered again with a 60-yard touchdown return to take a 21-20 lead. Troup would take advantage of another turnover to pad their advantage to 28-20 at the end of the third quarter.
As the fourth quarter rolled in, everyone knew it was going to be a nail-biting finish. Fayette got the first touchdown of the quarter. Trailing by two, they decided to go for the two-point conversion. Nearly sacked, Powell found a wide open Daveion Nash to his left to tie it up 28-28.
Fayette’s offense could not be stopped by that point. Bowe and the offensive line plowed their way to another touchdown, but the extra point attempt failed for a 34-28 advantage with four minutes to play.
Troup was not going to leave Tiger Stadium without a fight. In less than 30 seconds, Troup scored a touchdown to pull ahead 35-34.
Fayette’s determination was at an ultimate high. They knew that this was their game to win. Powell led his offense down the field with the help of Bowe, chewing up yards in bulk.
With seconds shredding off the board, Fayette had to decide how they wanted to attempt to seal this victory. With 5 seconds remaining, Coach Davis called for the kicking team to go in, and for James Hawkins to attempt a 37-field goal to secure the win for the Tigers.
As Hawkins stepped up, every Fayette player on the sidelines was kneeling on the ground, heads bowed, hoping to hear a raging crowd celebrate a sweet victory, which is exactly what Hawkins secured for the Tigers. The whole team stormed the field to congratulate him.
Along with Hawkins’ unbelievable performance, Powell, who has unselfishly stepped up to the plate as quarterback after a rash of injuries, was again a dynamic dual-threat against Troup, completing 9-of-14 passes for 84 yards and running for 116 yards and a score on 25 attempts. He combined with Malek Bowe, who bruised and battered Troup all night to the tune of 139 yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 carries, for an unstoppable attack.
“The coaching staff is amazing,” said Powell. “They know the connection me and Bowe have and help us run the offense.”
As Coach Davis said, “Bowe and Powell are hard to bring down. They are the work force.”
Daveion Nash was the leading receiver on the night with 4 catches for 46 yards and a two-point conversion.
Malcolm Easterwood led the defense with 8 tackles, followed by Teras Hagans with seven and Tay Cody with five. Hagans also added a sack and Jalen Ridges intercepted a pass. Kevin Zachery built on last week’s big game with two forced fumbles and recoveries.
Fayette County secured their spot in the state playoffs with the win and played the hardest fought game of their season, winning 37-35 against Troup County. They are ready to compete against Sandy Creek this Friday night and aim for another big region win.