Sandy Creek suffered a tough 35-31 loss Friday night in a back-and-forth game. As the county’s last playoff team, they battled on the road and eventually lost against the Cartersville Purple Hurricanes in the quarterfinals. For a team used to winning, this was a tough loss to take.
Playing on the road, the Patriots were physical and tough. They made all the plays to win this one, but it didn’t end up the way they wanted.
Coach Walker had many hugs to give after the loss. He hugged his son Trey, the starting quarterback, for a while, and told the kids he coached to be proud in the postgame huddle.
“Sandy Creek football is important. It’s important to our community. It’s important to our people, you know, and we couldn’t be prouder of our kids and the way they played, the things they did. We just came up a little bit short,” Coach Walker said.
And Coach Walker was right on the “little bit” part, as this game came to the very end, as the referees allowed the clock to run out when the Patriots arguably should have had a second or two for a “Hail Mary.”
The game was frequently marred by penalties on both sides.
The game opened up, however, with a big play from Korey Banks. With a third and short in Cartersville territory, Trey Walker took the play action and launched it up to a wide open Banks for a 36-yard touchdown to open the scoring and make it 7-0 Sandy Creek.
Cartersville responded before the end of the first quarter with a touchdown, making it 7-7, but the tie didn’t last long.
Sandy Creek’s Javon Jackson took the ensuing kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown, to make it a 14-7 game.
Cartersville scored on their next drive, pushing it down to get the score to 14-14.
The inability to press the ball on the ground led to a a field goal on Sandy Creek’s next drive, a 44-yard boot from Arnol Spaniol that sailed through the uprights to give them a 17-14 lead.
Swinney break loose in the third quarter, scoring from twenty yards out to make it 24-14.
This was a big moment for the Patriots. With a ten point lead late in the third, they needed to hold ship, but the Hurricanes pulled off a fake punt that eventually led to a quarterback keeper to trim their deficit to 24-21.
Sandy Creek struggled on the ensuing possession to move the chains. They found themselves looking at fourth and short and went for it. Swinney took a pitch to the outside and raced for a 52-yard touchdown to make it a 31-21 lead.
Cartersville responded on their next drive to make it 31-28 Sandy Creek.
The game was in their hands at this point. Sandy Creek drove down for a field goal, but missed it from 37 yards out, leaving the score at 31-28 Sandy Creek.
With under four minutes left, the Cartersville offense was under the gun. Sandy Creek’s defense shut them down on first and second down, but allowed a receiver to slip behind them on third and long for a big gain down to the Patriots’ 35-yard line.
Cartersville scored again with less than 30 seconds left, making it a 35-31 game.
Sandy Creek had a chance to win, getting a huge gain to Brian Miller down to the opponent 20-yard line. Though Miller was tackled with time left and the clock should have been stopped, the officials let time run out. Sandy Creek’s coaches asked to get a couple seconds back on the clock, but their protests were denied.
It was a fine night offensively for the Patriots. Trey Walker played arguably his best game of the season. He completed 10 of 18 passes for 254 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. Korey Banks caught four of them for 102 yards and one score. Christian Branch hauled in four passes for 94 yards. Eric Swinney had another big game, running for 138 yards and two scores on 29 carries.
Defensively, Javon Jackson led the way with 11 tackles, followed by six from Tristan Mann. Josh Greene, Brian Miller, and Elijah Cooper each tallied five. Miller (interception) and Mann (fumble) each notched a turnover.
“I couldn’t be prouder to be associated with a group of young men,” Coach Walker told his players after the game. “You are what Sandy Creek Football is all about.”