First-year Americus-Sumter coach Michael Pollock.
AMERICUS -- Houston County head coach Greg Robinson is one big contradiction and he loves it.
Robinson's Bears scored 17 unanswered points in the second half to upend Americus-Sumter, 23-19, Friday in both team's final non-region tune-up before the real battles begin.
The funny thing is, Robinson didn't feel like his team could play with the Panthers, yet he somehow knew they could win.
"There is no way we should be on the field with Americus-Sumter, but I told our kids we would find a way to win this football game," said Robinson, whose team improved to 3-0 on the young season.
Robinson was right, but just barely.
Houston County took its first lead of the game with 9:30 left to play on Tyler Hall's 2-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal to put the Bears ahead, 23-19, before Americus-Sumter (1-3) drove 82 yards in the final five minutes to the Houston County 3-yard line.
From there, the Panthers committed two of their 12 penalties on the night and wound up with a fourth-and-goal from the 20, failing to convert on a last ditch pass that ended up in a lineman's hands and resulted in an illegal touching penalty, turning the ball over on downs.
"The second half we just didn't maintain our composure for some reason," Americus-Sumter head coach Michael Pollock said. "There were so many opportunities for us to put the game away and we couldn't do it."
The Panthers stormed out to a 19-6 lead when Kedrick Jones scored on a 14-yard run with 10:16 left in the third quarter. Americus had dominated the first half, rolling up 183 yards while holding Houston County to minus-9 rushing yards.
"I wanted to keep attacking them," Pollock said. "I didn't feel like the game was over."
Not even close.
Hunter Heck booted a 22-yard field goal to start the comeback midway through the third and Ron Brown punched in a 21-yard touchdown run to cut the Americus advantage to 19-16 with 2:50 left in the third.
The Panthers managed just 50 total yards in the second half, while starting quarterback Malik Thomas sat the entire fourth quarter. Thomas completed 8-of-14 passes for 105 yards, but had been nursing a sore ankle, so Pollock went with veteran Thomas Haugabook, who ran for 37 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run on the night.
"We just felt like we needed a little spark with a veteran quarterback," Pollock said.
Houston County was held to just 37 yards rushing, but Hall, the Bears' senior quarterback, threw for 160 yards on 13-of-28 passing, including a 20-yard scoring strike to Taylor Ring.
The Panthers defense started the scoring when Dontavious Bell scooped up a fumble and raced 14 yards for a touchdown at the start of the second quarter. Kwintavious Burns also blocked a punt in the third quarter that set up Jones' score. Jones finished the night with 85 yards rushing on 10 carries for Americus after tallying 65 yards in the first half. Dwayne Waters added 64 receiving yards on four catchers for the Panthers.
Americus-Sumter opens Region 1-AAA play Friday at home against Worth County. Houston County, a Region 1-AAAA school, travels to Warner Robins.