Despite Thursday’s loss to Fitzgerald, Albany High running back Calvin Jackson rushed for 94 yards on 11 carries and scored on a 19-yard TD run.
ALBANY -- Did you hear about the one that got away?
No, this is no fish tale, but the more you tell it the bigger it gets.
Just like the score did Thursday at Hugh Mills Stadium.
At least that's how it felt to Albany High's Indians, who went head-to-head with No. 8-ranked Fitzgerald Thursday night before the floodgates opened in the second half and Fitzgerald turned a 21-21 classic into a 56-21 rout.
That's right, it was 21-21 at halftime. Albany went toe-to-toe with the powerhouse from Fitzgerald, and for a while it looked like both punters could take the night off.
Then Fitzgerald got a fumble, two long runs -- and a horrible call by an official -- and suddenly it was a 42-21 game in the third quarter as the Purple Hurricanes seized control and kept it.
"Sometimes that happens,'' said Fitzgerald coach Robby Pruitt, whose team is a state power year-in and year-out. "You find yourself in a dogfight, and then somebody makes a mistake ... We were fortunate to capitalize on it.''
Pruitt was pretty fortunate to start Scottie Griffin at fullback.
Griffin, who starts at noseguard, had to play fullback because of recent injuries. So what happens? Griffin, who is solid as a rock and just as tough to tackle, rushed for five touchdowns, including four in the second half, and finished the game with 256 yards on 14 carries.
Not bad for a noseguard, who obviously has a nose for the end zone.
He broke the game open in the third quarter with two big-time runs. He busted free for a 51-yarder to the 3-yard line on the third play of the second half to set up Fitzgerald's go-ahead touchdown.
Then the break everyone was looking for happened. Albany was driving again to match Fitzgerald as the Indians were inside the 30, but they fumbled the ball away. It was the first turnover of the game. Two plays later, Griffin ran for a 64-yard TD to make it 35-21.
Then an official blew a call on the ensuing kickoff, ruling that Albany's Elliott Martin picked up the kickoff and went out of bounds at the 4-yard line. But the ball was clearly on the line when Martin picked it up, and should have been ruled out of bounds.
Fitzgerald forced the first punt of the game, and Purple Hurricane QB Kaleb Nobles hit his first pass of the night -- a 34-yarder to Kevin Coney, who was tackled at the 1-yard line. Griffin scored on the next play and with 5:29 left in the third, it was a 42-21 game.
"If we do some tackling, it's not even close,'' said Albany High coach Felton Williams, whose team stopped Fitzgerald only once all night. "We just missed assignments. Even when it was 42-21 I still felt like we had a chance.
"We couldn't stop them, and they couldn't stop us (in the first half),'' he said. 'Then they got the fumble (in the third quarter). If we would have gotten a fumble, it could have gone the other way. The pendulum could have swung our way.''
Both teams scored the first three times they had the ball in the first half, and Albany was moving again, ready to take a 28-21 lead when the Indians just ran out of time as they drove inside the Fitzgerald 40 when the clock expired in the first half after an interception.
Then the world turned upside down for Albany.
"They are a good team. They are disciplined, and you just can't make a mistake against them,'' said Albany High quarterback Emmanul Byrd, who completed 9 of 18 passes for 120 yards. "You can't give them the ball. They run it down your throat.
"But we just have to go back to work and get better,'' he said. "We have to keep our heads up and go back to work.''
Byrd threw a 7-yard TD pass to Rantiez Williams to open the scoring and then ran for a 1-yard TD to lift Albany to a 21-14 lead. Calvin Jackson, who gained 94 yards on 11 carries, scored Albany's other TD, a 19-yard run.
Fitzgerald has a 7-1 all-time record against Albany High, but walked away from this game with a lot of respect for the Indians, who had to face the defending champs and the favorites to win Region the 1-AA race in their first region game.
"Albany has a good football team,'' Pruitt said. "I look for them to be one of the four teams in our region (to advance to the playoffs). Their coach has done a great job with them, and he has done it in a short time.''
The Indians (0-1 in the region and 3-2 for the season) feel the same way. The top four teams advance to the playoffs.
"We have a lot more football to play,'' Williams said. "I feel we are a playoff team. We have to go to work and win out. We're capable of doing that.''