Deerfield star RB and Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Quentin Heard throws a Mount de Sales defender out of his way en route to a 290-yard, three-TD night in the Knights’ 24-7 comeback win. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY -- Quentin Heard walked off the field speechless after fumbling on the first play of the second half, costing Deerfield great field position and some much-needed momentum Friday night against Mount de Sales in the opening round of the GISA Class AAA state playoffs.
No one was talking about that fumble after the game.
Instead, they were talking about how Heard turned the night into the most memorable of his career. The Knights trailed, 7-0, when The Herald Dynamite Dozen selection coughed up the ball, but then behind their senior running back they scored 24 unanswered points to keep their season alive with a 24-7 victory.
Heard finished with 290 yards and three touchdowns, and nearly all of his damage was done in the second half.
"He's a beast," DWS junior RB Kh'Ron McClain said. "That's all I can say. Quentin Heard is a beast."
Deerfield coach Allen Lowe called Heard "relentless," but you could have used a lot of adjectives to describe his 229-yard, three-TD second half. Still, after the game all Heard could talk about was the Knights' next game -- a rematch with Stratford Academy, which was the only team from Georgia to beat DWS (10-2) all season.
"The touchdowns don't mean a thing without the win," Heard said. "It's just good to beat Mount de Sales, and the motivation to play Stratford next week is even bigger."
The Knights lost in the second week of the season to Stratford, 14-10, and McClain, who rushed for 38 yards and had an interception Friday, said the Knights' focus shifted to Stratford as soon as the final seconds ticked off.
"All we have to do is play hard, play physical and play our game. And I think we have a chance," McClain said about what the Knights need to do when they host Stratford next Friday night.
In other words, play like they did the second half.
The Knights allowed just 64 total yards after halftime and came away with two interceptions, while they ran for 292 yards and threw for 16 more.
"That's one of the best halves of footballs that I have ever had a team play," Lowe said. "And that included (Heard's fumble) on the opening drive. You are just thinking, 'Oh man, it's going to be one of those nights.' "
It turned into one of those nights where DWS just gutted it out and found a way to win --- a lot like last year's 30-27 victory against Mount de Sales that kept the Knights undefeated and sent them into the state championship game. After his game-winning 40-yard field goal at the buzzer last season, Trey Puckett was carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates.
Heard could have been hoisted up after his second-half performance Friday, but his teammates would have had to catch him first. And Mount de Sales coach Robert Slocum could tell you, that was harder than it looked Friday night.
"If I had my druthers, I wouldn't come back (to Deerfield) and play again," said Slocum, whose Cavaliers started their season 7-0 before losing their last four games. "We have had nothing but bad experiences here."
It started out as a great night for Slocum and his Cavs, who held Deerfield to one first down and 51 yards in the first quarter. Neither team's offense was able to move the ball in the first half, but Mount de Sales was winning the field position battle and kept backing the Knights inside their own 10-yard line.
"We were backed up the entire first half," Lowe said. "We were just trying some way to flip the field, but it never did happen in the first half."
Deerfield's offense continued to stall in the second quarter, and Mount de Sales finally capitalized on its field position with a 2-yard rushing touchdown by Wil Bently with 1:43 left in the half to take a 7-0 lead into the locker room.
The Knights' locker room speech, delivered by assistant coach Rod Murray, was all about believing in themselves.
"We were talking about having no doubt," Heard said. "No doubt that we would win this game in the second half. Fear no one. Look into their eyes and have no fear. This was our field."
In the second half, it was Heard's field.
He tied the game with a 44-yard TD run with 6:06 left in the third quarter and put his team in the lead with an 11-yard score with 1:08 left in the third. Finally, he put the exclamation point on the victory with an 89-yard run up the Knights' sideline that put DWS ahead, 24-7. Pucket, who missed a 52-yard field goal at the end of the first half, hit a 32-yard field goal in between Heard's final two touchdowns.
"(Heard) just took over," Lowe said. "He didn't let that fumble get him down. He has been here before, so he's a guy we rely on. Tonight, he just kept pounding it away."
And the Knights just keep rolling. They have now won four straight playoff games, including last year's GISA Class AAA state championship against Tattnall Square. But the only team in the state to beat Deerfield in more than two seasons arrives at Webb Memorial Stadium in six days, and the Knights are ready for them.
"(Friday night's) win is already gone by. No more celebration," McClain said outside of his locker room with "Another One Bites The Dust" by Queen playing in the background. "It's exciting to beat Mount de Sales, but now we have Stratford."