PELHAM -- Jim Morrell's voice was almost gone, but he had just enough left late Friday night to sum up one of the toughest losses of this or any season.
"We just didn't turn the corner,'' Morrell said.
His Pelham Hornets had fallen just short on a two-point conversion run with 1:10 left in the game, losing a Region 1-A heartbreaker to Randolph-Clay, 28-26, on a night when there was so much more than football on the line.
No, Pelham didn't turn the corner on that two-point conversion run, but Morrell, who talked about lessons of integrity this week, probably turned a bigger corner in the long run.
It has been a tormenting week for Pelham (0-2, 0-5), which had to forfeit two games because of a clerical error -- one in which Morrell stood up twice, first turning the facts into the GHSA, and secondly demanding to take all the blame for missing a technicality on a backup player's eligibility.
"I'm so proud of every one of them,'' Morrell said. "These kids went through a lot this week, and a lot of folks folded up the tent. But these kids battled all night, on every play. They laid it on the line. They played hard, we just couldn't quite get in the end zone ... I'm proud of them, and I'm proud of our fans. Our fans were great.''
The corner, indeed.
It was a barn-burner, an instant classic full of six Randolph-Clay fumbles that saw R-C's Johnny Foster gain 254 yards on 24 carries and score on 54-yard run, and also saw R-C's Calvin Paramore return a punt 99 yards for a go-ahead TD that lifted R-C to a 16-7 lead, which grew to 28-14 on Foster's TD run and Cardaryle Curry's 3-yard TD run.
But Pelham just kept coming back, Caleb Morrell ran for a 9-yard TD and threw two TD passes to Darius Thomas, who scored on a 5-yard run with 10:10 left to close to 28-20, and caught a 12-yard pass to make it 28-26 with 1:10 left. But Curry, who rushed for 87 yards, made his biggest play on defense when he tackled Thomas on the final two-pointer short of the goal line.
"Both teams played great,'' said R-C coach Daniel McFather, whose team improved to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the region. "Pelham played great and we hung on and won. Everybody laid it on the line (Friday night).''