JONESBORO — Westover running back Shannon Saunders battled an injured knee all week and was limited in his carries during Friday night’s game at Jonesboro.
But when Westover coach Octavia Jones needed a late TD, there was only one guy to turn to.
Saunders rumbled in for a 3-yard TD with nine minutes left, leading Westover to a 7-0 victory and clinching the first win of the season for the Patriots.
“We limited his reps (Friday), but when we got to the goal line we thought we needed a bigger body to bruise his way into the end zone,” Jones said.
The late TD was set up by a clutch stand from the Westover defense, which pressured a Jonesboro punt attempt and forced a turnover on downs deep in Jonesboro territory.
“I was proud of the effort put forth (Friday),” Jones said. “The defense played well. We had a couple of goal-line stands. This was a big win for us. We didn’t want to start off the season 0-2. We felt good coming into the game, and I am excited for the guys right now. But we have to come together and get ready for Lee County next week.”
The Patriots will travel to Lee County for next Friday’s matchup with the Herald No. 1 Trojans.
GOING ‘CRAZY’ IN CORDELE: Landon Whitman stretched for the end zone late Friday night in Cordele, and an entire stadium held its breath.
Then, with a final burst of energy, the Crisp County senior receiver crossed the goal line, breaking the silence and clinching a monumental win for the Cougars.
“It was crazy,” Crisp County coach Lee Campbell said. “The kids started going crazy. Everyone was going crazy.”
Whitman’s TD catch from QB Witt Campbell gave Crisp County a 20-14 win against Cook County in double-overtime, sending the Cougars to a 2-0 record for the first time since 2008 and knocking off a Cook County team that beat them 37-0 last season.
What a difference a year has made for the Cougars, who won just three games all of last season and didn’t even score until Week 5.
“It feels good to get started like this (this season),” Lee Campbell said. “We were so young last year, and now these guys are a year older, and it’s just great to see them grow and mature like they have.”
Cook County has been a powerhouse in Region 1-AA in recent years, and Campbell admitted that people around Southwest Georgia might do a double-take when they see a Crisp County win from Friday night.
“I would, too,” Campbell said. “They are extremely young, but they are talented. It was a daggum war.”
The final play of Friday’s “war” started with a naked bootleg from Witt Campbell, who hit Whitman dragging across the field. Whitman then reached over the goal line to end a wild Friday night in Cordele.
“The guys were all excited,” Lee Campbell said. “They were jumping up and down and hooping and hollering.”
The excitement truly started at the end of the first overtime when Cook missed a game-winning field goal after Crisp County’s offense failed to score on the opening possession of overtime.
“You could sense our kids gaining a lot of confidence with that missed field goal,: Campbell said. “I said, ‘Guys, we have to go right back out there and do it again. We got a little water break, and then they held their ground again.”
Cook County missed a second field goal in the opening possession of the second overtime, setting up Crisp’s game winning touchdown minutes later.
Whitman scored the game’s first TD on a pass from Campbell, while defensive lineman Elijah Johnson fell on a fumble in the end zone for the Cougars’ other TD.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Cougars, however, as they host an undefeated and state-ranked Valdosta team on Friday.
BAINBRIDGE FALLS IN NAILBITER: For the second straight game, the Bainbridge Bearcats found themselves in a fight for their lives.
On Friday, however, it was Cairo that landed the knockout punch.
In a game between two of the most physical teams in South Georgia, Cairo held on for a 6-0 victory after getting the game’s only TD with 5:53 left in the second quarter when Jeremiah Hill pounded into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown.
The Bearcats’ loss came two weeks after they won their season opener against East Gadsden (Fla.,) 3-0.
“We want our games to be that way,” first-year Bainbridge coach Jeff Littleton said about his team’s two low-scoring, physical games. “We want to be able to be tough and physical and try to outplay our opponents. It doesn’t matter what type of offense or defense you run, you have to be physically tough. That’s what we want to be on both sides of the football.”
The Bainbridge defense stood its ground over and over again against a Cairo team that lost to powerhouse Thomasville, 21-10, last week but gave the Bulldogs all they could handle.
“We played as hard as we could play,” Littleton said. “Nobody ever gave up. We were always in the game because one player would make a play, and then another would step up and make another play.”
Aaron Calloway led Bainbridge on the ground with 65 yards on 18 carries, while Greg Cooper broke free for a 51-yard gain on his only rush. Bainbridge QB Preston Norris was 6-for-14 for 45 yards.
On defense for Bainbridge, Cedrick Jones recovered a fumble and Craig Cooper picked off Cairo quarterback Stacy Masten.
The Bearcats (1-1) return home Friday to host Early County in a rematch of last season’s 14-12 thriller that Bainbridge won.
SEMINOLE COUNTY 49, TURNER COUNTY 0: The Indians ran all over Turner County, gaining 281 yards on the ground en route to the blowout victory.
It was the Robert Speight show all over the field for Seminole County as the senior running back had throwing, rushing and receiving touchdowns. He tossed a 27-yard TD to Tyler Peters on a half-back pass, rushed for a 37-yard TD on one of his 12 carries for 135 yards and caught a 20-yard TD from QB Alex Fudge.
Fudge finished with three TD passes and also found Danny Rambo and Aaron Baskerville in the end zone.
Also scoring for Seminole were Brendan Kimble (15 carroes, 81 yards) and Patrick Bell, who scored on a 1-yard rush on his only carry of the game.
Seminole (2-0), which held Turner County to minus-2 yards rushing, plays again Friday at home against Clinch County.
CHATTAHOOCHEE COUNTY 21, TERRELL COUNTY 12: Friday night’s game in Cusseta came down a fourth-and-goal with 1:15 left as Chattahoochee was one play from putting the game away and Terrell County was one defensive stop from giving itself a chance to win.
In the end, it was Chattahoochee that walked away with the decisive play.
“We had their running back stopped in the backfield, but he reversed field and outran us into the end zone,” Terrell County William Huff said.
And just like that, the Greenwave fell to 0-2 on the season.
Shavoyae Brown ran in for a 35-yard TD and quarterback Trey Bishop scrambled for a 41-yard score to give Terrell County its points. The Greenwave play again Friday at home against Central, Talbotton.
SGA 15, SOUTHLAND 14: Southwest Georgia running back Will Warren pulled the Warriors to within one in the third quarter with a 7-yard TD run and then put SGA on top by one seconds later with a two-point conversion to lead the Warriors to their third win of the season.
SGA (3-1) rushed for 272 yards as a team, and Warren had 186 yards by himself on 35 carries. Steven Jackson scored SGA’s other TD on a 1-yard rush and finished with 81 yards on 15 carries.
Final stats were not available for Southland, which ran the opening kickoff back 95 yards for a TD to take an early 7-0 lead.
SGA plays again Friday at home against Titarea, while Southland (1-2) hosts Sherwood Christian on Friday.
DEERFIELD 14, MOUNT DE SALES 13: Deerfield's Antonio Watts blocked a punt with eight minutes left in the game and Matthew Fox ran for the two point conversion to give the Knights just enough points for the win.
Mount de Sales led for the entire game until the blocked put in the fourth quarter. They scored on their first drive of the game. After Nick Hannon recovered a fumble on the Deerfield-Windsor 20, Reed Ely found Carson Leatherwood in the end zone three plays later. Ryan Murphy added the extra point to give the Cavaliers a 7-0 lead.
That lead held up until late in the second quarter. After Leatherwood fumbled an attempt to field a punt, the Knights struck for their first score on a 19 yard pass from Tripp Presley to Austin Fallaw. But the extra point was blocked and the Cavs went into halftime with a one-point lead.
The third quarter started off poorly for Mount de Sales. Alex Sands, the Cavs' best and most experienced running back, dislocated his shoulder on the first play after a five yard gain and was done for the night. Without him, Mount de Sales could not move the ball on its first four possessions of the second half. But their defense, led by Voris Bryant and Trent Talton, who both had sacks in the third quarter, would not let Deerfield move the ball either, holding them to only three first down’s and no points.
With Mount de Sales back up early in the fourth quarter, the Cavs offensive line did not give freshman punter Jonathan Hubbard quite enough time to get his punt away and Watts picked up the loose ball and ran it in giving the Knights the lead.
Mount de Sales came right back, putting together their best drive of the night, that was capped by an Ely to Leatherwood 43 yard catch and run for the score. But a bad snap doomed the extra point and the Knights were able to run out the clock to get a hard fought win.
CRISP ACADEMY 44, JOHN HANCOCK 0: The Wildcats jumped out to a 41-0 halftime lead on Friday and never looked back to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Matt Smith led the way for Crisp with 103 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Hunter Chambers galloped for 47 yards and two scores. Quarterback Jake Smith was 4-for-7 for 97 yards and threw his only TD to Banks Folsom.
The Wildcats also scored on defense when Brad Richmond fell on a fumble in the end zone for six points.
Crisp plays again Friday at home against Covenant Christian Academy.
SPENCER COUNTY 27, RANDOLPH-CLAY 21: With Dynamite Dozen running backs Cornelius Bennett and Don Bolden sharing the backfield, this wasn’t at all how Randolph-Clay envisioned its 2013 season starting.
But with injuries plaguing a number of other players surrounding Bennett and Bolden, the Red Devils are now 0-2 after Thursday night’s 27-21 loss to Spencer County.
Bennett rushed for 180 yards and two TDs, and Bolden added another rushing TD, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Spencer County, which scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to come back and win.
“We have to get healthy,” Randolph-Clay coach Daniel McFather said. “We have been playing without three starters. We got the injury bug really quick. And we need to work on holding onto the football and out defense. We had some missed assignments on the defensive side of the ball.”
Spencer took a 7-6 lead into halftime, but the Red Devils ran wild in the opening moments of the second half and scored on a three-play drive, which was capped by Bolden’s long TD run.
After Spencer tied the game at 14-14 later in the third quarter, Bennett rushed for his second TD of the game to put Randolph-Clay ahead, 21-14, but Spencer put together two straight scores in the final 12 minutes. The Red Devils had a final shot to win in the closing minutes and got within 10 yards of a game-winning touchdown, but R-C turned the ball over on downs to end the game.
Randolph-Clay is off next week before returning to action Sept. 20 at home against Stewart County.
EARLY COUNTY 27, MILLER COUNTY 0: The Bobcats rebounded from a 14-13 loss to Seminole last weekend to shutout the Pirates.
Early led, 21-0, at halftime and never looked back, improving to 1-1 on the season.
OTHER SCORES AND HIGHLIGHTS: Westwood bounced back from last week’s 28-7 loss to Stratford Academy and beat Dawson Street, 51-0, on Friday. It was the first win of the season for the Wildcats (1-1-1), who tied Piedmont Academy in their season opener. … Bainbridge is still without a TD after losing 6-0 to Cairo on Friday in a showdown between two of South Georgia’s top teams. The Bearcats (1-1) won their opener Aug. 23 against East Gadsden, Fla., by the score of 3-0, giving Jeff Littleton his first win in his first game as a head coach. … Riley Carlson returned two punt returns for TDs for Terrell Academy, which scored 27 unanswered points in the second half to win, 41-14.