Dougherty’s Kenneth Johnson, left, avoids the tackle of Westover’s Kendrick Hurley on his way to a touchdown in the first half Friday night at Hugh Mills Stadium.
ALBANY — It wasn't that the Dougherty football team gave up in Friday night's game.
"We just gave out," Dougherty coach Corey Joyner explained. "We just don't have enough players."
In the end, Dougherty also gave Westover new life in the race for the Region 1-AAAA title.
The Patriots survived Dougherty's upset bid, overcame a late third-quarter deficit and pulled away for a 41-32 win at Hugh Mills Stadium, keeping their slim chance of winning their first region title alive.
Westover running back Dalviness Greene ran for nearly 200 yards and had three touchdowns in the second half that propelled the Patriots' comeback.
Despite improving to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the region, Westover coach Octavia Jones wasn't pleased with his team's performance.
"I knew all week that Dougherty was going to come play hard," Jones said. "I just didn't expect us to come out and play the way we did. Coach Joyner is doing an excellent job. It was their Homecoming, and he has those guys playing great. We just need to make sure we turn up our intensity and try to get ready to close this season out strong."
Westover's region title hopes are alive — but just barely. Cairo stayed undefeated in region play with a win against Americus on Friday, leaving the Patriots a game behind the Syrupmakers. Westover will need wins in its final two region games and Monroe to knock off Cairo next week just force a tiebreaker that the Syrupmakers currently have a stranglehold on.
But the Herald No. 2 Patriots still have a shot after avoiding disaster Friday night.
"The big picture is winning out," Jones said. "We can't worry about what other teams do. We just have to worry about us. We almost let this one get away tonight. We just have to maintain our focus and make sure we take care or our business on the field and let the chips fall where they may."
Dougherty (0-8, 0-5), which led 20-14 at halftime and 26-21 with 1:44 left in the third quarter, nearly pulled off its first win in over a year. The Trojans hadn't won since Sept. 9, 2011 when they beat Clarkston, and they hadn't beaten a city rival since shutting out Westover on Oct. 3, 2009.
Dougherty quarterback Michael Whatley almost made history happen Friday night.
The sophomore threw for five touchdowns and 329 yards on 20-of-41. He tossed two TDs to Demario Barney in the first half to tie the game at 14-14 with 6:09 left in the second quarter and then another to Madarious McWhorter to give the Trojans a 20-14 lead with 2:39 left before halftime. Kenneth Johnson scored on a fourth-and-goal in the third quarter to give Dougherty its final lead, and Jared Kiser caught a 59-yard TD pass with 1:53 left in the game.
McWhorter led Dougherty receivers with 176 yards.
"I wanted it bad (Friday). I wanted to win, but sometimes it just …," Whatley said before trailing off. "A win would have given us respect."
That's how Dougherty felt after almost giving Joyner his first win as head coach and sending shockwaves throughout the Region 1-AAAA standings.
"A win would have meant respect. It would have meant respect from teams around here that Dougherty often had (in the past)," Joyner said. "And it would have been a confidence booster for our guys. Our guys worked their behinds off during the summer. We got out there at 8:30 and didn't leave till 1:30.
"We had night practices, two-a-days, three-a-days, whatever it took. But we just don't have enough people. And it's sad that these guys had to experience that loss with all they have given."
Westover opened the game with a 20-yard TD pass from T.J. Cromer to Jackie Childs on the first play of the game, and then Jaelon Benjamin broke free for a 56-yard TD run with four minutes left in the first quarter to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead.
Greene's three scores plus a Cromer 17-yard TD run in the second half gave the Patriots just enough to hang on.