MOULTRIE — Colquitt County’S Rush Propst mentioned several times recently about how important it was for the Packers defense to get some swagger back.
The defense, nor the team in general, made much of a move in that direction on Saturday in the season-opener against North Gwinnett in the Corky Kell Classic in the Georgia Dome.
The Bulldogs need three plays to move from their own 46 to set up Michael D’Angola for a 33-yard field goal with no time remaining on the to give North Gwinnett a 16-14 victory.
North Gwinnett quarterback Michael Haynes, making first varsity start, ran 21 yards to the Packers 11 with 34 seconds left, but then was sacked on the next play by Brandon Key.
The Bulldogs had no timeouts, but hurriedly got D’Angola on the field and he got his kick just inside the right upright to give North Gwinnett the victory.
Counting the 33-31 loss to Norcross in the scrimmage on Aug. 17 and defeat at the hands of Grayson in the state semifinal in December, the Packers have lost three straight in which the opponent scored on its final possession.
Colquitt County has now lost six straight games in the Georgia Dome.
And the Packers may have been as ragged as in any recent game, being flagged 15 times for penalties that added up to 95 yards.
Among those penalties were seven for false starts.
The Packers were held to just 285 yards of offense and just 170 through the air.
Colquitt also was picked off twice and lost a fumble.
North Gwinnett rushed for 147 yards, but 77 came on a touchdown run by Donnie Miles in the third quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 13-8 lead.
The Packers trumped that score with a John Boatwright touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but could not stop the Bulldogs last ditch-drive.
Colquitt struggled from the outset with senior quarterback Cole Segraves getting picked off on the Packers first offensive snap. His final throw of the first half also was picked off.
After Jalen Brooks intercepted Segraves on the first play, the Bulldogs stumbled when an apparent touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Haynes to Caleb Scott was called back.
On fourth down, Colquitt’s Jamal Phillips stopped Michael Pucciarello short of first down and North Gwinnett turned the ball over.
Colquitt got two first downs on its next possession, but was forced to punt.
Javonta Woods hit the Bulldog returner, separating him from the ball, and John Gray recovered at the North Gwinnett 19.
But the possession resulted in a loss of seven yards and the Packers were forced to settle for a 43-yard field goal from Roberto Vega on his varsity attempt and Colquitt led 3-0 with 5:15 left in the first quarter.
Colquitt forced North Gwinnett to punt away its next possession and Colquitt took over on its 47. After back-to-back illegal procedure penalties, John Boatwright coughed the ball up and North Gwinnett’s Tony Bradford picked it up and ran 33 yards for the touchdown.
D’Angola converted to put the Bulldogs 7-3.
Following the kickoff, the Packers drove deep into North Gwinnett territory, but Packers coach Rush Propst chose not to attempt field goal attempt and elected to go for it on a fourth-and-6 at North Gwinnett 20.
But a Segraves pass was incomplete in the end zone and the first quarter ended with the Packers trailing 7-3.
The Packers hurt themselves again in the second quarter when an apparent 43-yard pass from Daniel Mobley to Kishaun Taylor to the Bulldogs 4 was called back for holding.
Later in the drive, Tyler Yost got off punt that O’Shay Williams downed on the North Gwinnett 2.
On the first play, Williams blitzed from his safety position and sacked quarterback Hayden Sphire for a safety and the Packers had pulled to within two at 7-5.
Later in fourth quarter, the Bulldogs drove to the Packers 13, but Tim Sanders ended the scoring threat by picking off a Haynes pass in the end zone.
The Packers final possession also ended in an interception when Colton Manning picked off a Segraves pass and Colquitt trailed by two at the half.
With their first possession of the second half, the Packers used four first downs and drove to the North Gwinnett 36.
But after three straight incompletions, Colquitt settled for another Tyler Yost punt.
Later in the third quarter, the Packers drove again and this time were able to manage three points when Vega converted on a 30-yard field goal and the Packers had an 8-7 lead.
That lead did not last long.
On the first play after the kickoff, Miles, who has committed to North Carolina, lined up in the offensive backfield for the first time in the game and busted a 77-yard touchdown run.
The conversion pass failed and the Bulldogs led 13-8.
North Gwinnett had had just 37 yards rushing when Miles broke loose.
Colquitt was quick to answer, driving 77 yards on its next possession to John Boatwright’s 5-yard touchdown run.
The big play in the drive was a 42-yard completion from Segraves to Bobby Hill.
It was Hill’s only catch of the game.
The Packers went for two, but a tackle-eligible pass was just off the hand of Jamiyus Pittman and the Packers led 14-13 with 9:25 remaining.
The Packers stopped the next North Gwinnett, taking over on downs when a Haynes fourth-down pass was incomplete on the Packers 40 with 5:19 left.
Colquitt did nothing with its next possession and appeared poised to put the game away when Brandon Key recovered a Miles fumble on the Colquitt 25 with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
Again, Colquitt was unable to grind out a first down and after taking over after Yost’s punt, Haynes completed two passes of 11 yards each and ran for 21 to set up the winning field goal.
The 0-1 Packers will travel again next Friday when they go to the Jackets Nest to play Thomas County Central.
In other Corky Kell Classic games on Saturday, Kell defeated Chattahooche 19-8; Grayson rolled over McEachern 31-12.
Also, on Friday, Coffee won its opener, defeating Whitewater in Fayetteville, 41-3.