Judah Johnson burned the Buccaneers for an 85-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. (Photos by Michael Clifton / www.kombatkamera.com)

by Rob Grubbs

After a relatively easy victory in week one, Sandy Creek Brett Garvin knew their next opponent would be a greater challenge for the 4th-ranked Patriots. The Allatoona Buccaneers from 6A visited the Battlefield in Tyrone Friday night in a cross-metro duel featuring two perennial playoff teams with great expectations. In a game dominated by big plays and the Patriot defensive line, Sandy Creek improved to 2-0 with a 23-17 win that saw numerous penalties and momentum swings.

Garvin and his offensive coaching staff had planned all week to go for the big strike immediately. After an opening touchback, the call was for sophomore quarterback Matthew Williams to make a deep throw across the middle, but an illegal procedure penalty moved them back to the fifteen. Undaunted, Williams found Judah Johnson across the middle near the 40 yard line in stride for the 85-yard score that caught Allatoona off guard and stunned them for a few moments.

After receiving the kickoff, the Buccaneers turned the ball back over to the Patriots after two plays on a fumble. With the ball at the Allatoona 33, the Patriots kept things on the ground for an eight-play drive that featured the downhill running of Jordan Clark. After punching the ball in from two yards out, the Patriots were up 14-0 less than five minutes into the game, and it appeared the rout was on.

Allatoona is a solid team, and they slowly recovered and went toe-to-toe with the Patriots. While it was obvious that yards would be tough to get against the Sandy Creek defense, the Buccaneers found some spark from their special teams unit and returner Payton Eeles. He fielded a punt early in the second quarter and returned deep into Patriot territory where Daniel Parsons scored on the next play to cut the lead to 14-7.

Jordan Clark bruised and battered the defense with 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

The rest of the half featured the Buccaneers trying to find openings against the defense, while the Patriots trying to avoid self-inflicted damage from penalties.

On their first possession of the second half, the Patriots once again pulled out a big play, this time a 73-yard run by Clark and scored on the next play for a 21-7 advantage.

With the game seemingly in hand, the Patriots could now rely on their stellar defense to suffocate the Buccaneers for the final 20 minutes of the game. On the first possession of the fourth quarter, Boyd, who had been bottled up all night for only 18 yards on 11 carries, took advantage of a backup at right corner, got to the outside, and raced down the sideline for a 69-yard touchdown.

With the Buccaneers only down by seven and 10 minutes left, they made a defensive stand of their own and forced a Patriot punt which was downed inside the Buccaneer 10. The Patriot defensive line could sense blood in the water and forced an intentional grounding call in the end zone for the safety and a 23-14 lead with 4:31 left.

After the ensuing free kick, the Patriots offense sputtered down the stretch, twice giving the ball back to the Buccaneers in the final minutes. The pressure was all on the Patriot defense, which is exactly what Garvin wanted to see.

“Those guys never thought once they were going to lose this game, even though they were put in tough spots,” said Garvin. “They knew they would hold. I can’t say enough about them and how proud I am of them.”

There was a bit more frustration on the offensive side.

“Every time we’d get something rolling we’d get a penalty,” he said. “We will work on that.”

After the Buccaneers made a field goal to bring the game within one possession, it all came down to the onside kick with 40 seconds remaining. The Patriots recovered to seal the win.

“We practice the onside kick every week on Thursday. They executed tonight exactly like they did in practice yesterday.”

The Sandy Creek defense held the Buccaneers to only 159 yards, 69 of which came on one play. The Patriot front four of Nick Fulwider, James Strothers, Taylor Hodge, and Mark Penson constantly put pressure at the line of scrimmage and Nick Toomer added an interception from the safety position.

Clark led the Patriot offense with 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Garvin was as much relieved as victorious after the win, but he was excited to make the trip Saturday afternoon to Oxford, Mississippi to see his son and Sandy Creek alumni, Cole Garvin, start at quarterback for the South Alabama Jaguars against Ole Miss and alums Eric Swinney and Chandler Tuitt. Based on how the current Patriot team is coming together, there will be a lot more Sandy Creek alumni playing on Saturdays in the near future.

The Patriots host Morrow next week and will be looking forward to the cross-county match up with Starr’s Mill in two weeks.