by Russell Cooks
The Sandy Creek Patriots relied on a last-minute drive to beat the reigning AAAAA State Champion Allatoona Buccaneers on the road Friday night.
“It wasn’t a pretty win by any means. This team has a lot a character, and I am really proud of how they fought back tonight,” said Sandy Creek coach Chip Walker. “Allatoona is a great team, and this is a great win for Sandy Creek.”
Trailing 17-14 with 4:58 remaining, the Patriots utilized several of their offensive weapons to put together the game-winning drive. Showing his guts, Drezyn Parson caught a kickoff from the 1-yard line instead of letting it go into the end zone and returned it out to the 35-yard line. From there, junior quarterback Bryant Walker engineered a drive that mixed up passes to Kaleb Slaughter and University of Minnesota commit Javan Hawes and effective runs by University of Cincinnati commit Jaelen Greene. Walker closed the drive out with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Hawes to give Sandy Creek a 21-17 lead and the victory.
“I felt that we fought the whole time. We absolutely would not give up,” said Hawes. “Although we had a several untimely penalties, we stuck together and we got the win.”
Sandy Creek started the game out fast. On the third play from scrimmage, Greene ran what looked like an 86-yard touchdown. However, he was ruled out of bounds at the three. After two unsuccessful running plays, Walker connected with University of Chattanooga commit Parker Mallette for a 4-yard touchdown to give Sandy Creek a 7-0 lead.
In true champion fashion, Allatoona answered with a successful drive of their own. The Patriot defense was able to hold them to field goal. With 4:15 remaining in the first quarter Sandy Creek led 7-3.
The defense stood strong again their next time out. Colby Warrior stopped the running back for a 3-yard loss, and he sacked the quarterback for a 12-yard loss on the next play.
The offense used a good mix to string together a 74-yard scoring drive. Walker led a possession that combined the power running of Greene, elusive running of Parson, and a couple of excellent catches by Hawes. Greene got things started as he picked up nine yards on a first down run, but it was called back for illegal motion. Greene shrugged it off and ran for 18 yards on the next snap. Walker connected with Hawes for 16 yards. Parson then served of a glass of sweet lemonade to the Sandy Creek fans. He fumbled the ball, but was able to regain possession. He reversed the field to pick up 23 yards, turning lemons into lemonade. On 4th and short, Walker was able to get Allatoona to jump offsides to give the Patriots a first down. Three plays later, it was Greene scoring from two yards out following a massive block from senior fullback Eric Woods. David Gonzalez added the extra point for a 14-3 Patriot lead.
This game was truly a slugfest. Not to be outdone, Allatoona came right back and scored on a 47-yard bomb to a wide open receiver and a 18-yard pass to the 2. The quarterback dove in for the short score to pull within 14-10 with 2:34 remaining in the first half.
On the next possession, Walker hit Hawes for a 66-yard touchdown, but it was called back for offsetting penalties. The missed opportunity kept the halftime score at 14-10.
Allatoona drove past midfield on their opening possession of the second half before the Creek defense, led by big plays by Warrior, junior Taylor Hodge, and senior Demetrius Worthy, was able to shut Allatoona down and force a punt.
On the Patriots first drive of the second half, Walker connected with Hawes for a 28-yard gain. The drive stalled, and Sandy Creek was forced to punt. A bad snap led to a partially blocked punt, giving Allatoona the ball inside Patriot territory. The Buccaneers wanted to take advantage right away. On the first play, the quarterback went deep, but junior TJ Peavy was able to breakup the pass at the last second. On the next play, junior LaCory Ryals tipped the ball to himself and intercepted the pass and returned it 20 yards just past midfield.
“We were excited for the game because we were the underdogs in this game, and the defense didn’t play well last game. We had to play much better this game. We had something to prove to our coaches and ourselves,” said Peavy. “We all had lots of energy, and I think the pass break up that I had gave us even more energy. We knew the key to winning this game was to swarm to the football, and that is exactly what we did.”
After a three and out for the offense, the defense picked up where they let off on the next Buccaneer series. Peavy and Warrior combined for a sack, then Worthy made another stop for a loss. After a 14-yard pick up by Allatona, Hodge was able to stop their running back for a 5-yard loss. Worthy followed up with another sack to turn them away.
“He is definitely a difference maker,” Walker said of Worthy, who is in his first year with the football team after playing baseball.
“For a kid that has been out of football for many years, he is making tremendous strides each and every day,” praised assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Bret Garvin. “We are very pleased with his commitment and his progress.”
Allatoona would start their next possession on their own 33. A questionable pass interference call against Isaiah Appling would push them all the way to the Sandy Creek 31. The Buccaneers drove the ball down the heart of the defense on five consecutive runs and scored from the two for a 17-14 lead with 4:58 remaining.
What followed show the determination and resolve of the Patriots. Parson caught the ensuing at the 1-yard line, and he would not be denied as he sliced and diced through the Buccaneers kickoff coverage team to set up the Patriots on the 35.
“I wanted to make a play to set us up for success,” said Parson. “I really wanted to contribute to our victory.”
Walker proceeded to pick the defense apart with a 16-yard completion to Slaughter, a 7-yard completion to Hawes, and another 14-yard completion to Slaughter. Greene ran for 6 yards, and Walker went back to Slaughter for an 8-yard gain. Walker capped it off hitting Hawes in stride for a 24-yard touchdown. After the successful extra point, Sandy Creek led 21-17 with 2:20 remaining.
Allatoona started their final drive on the 24-yard line, but after a holding penalty and stops by a host of Patriots, they were faced with a 4th and 22. The defense held and Sandy Creek won 21-17.
Jaelen Greene led all rushers with 134 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. Walker completed 13 of 23 passes for 145 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Hawes finished with 6 catches for 91 yards and score. Slaughter added 6 catches for 50 yards.
“It felt good. We had a lot good energy,” said Worthy. “It was a hard fought game, and we prevailed against a really good team.
“We were much improved from the first game, but to be a championship team, we have a lot of things to work on,” said Garvin. “A win is a win, and I will take it.”
The 1-1 Patriots will host the 1-2 Morrow Mustangs on September 9 as they christen their new artificial turf field.