Dougherty High assistant coaches celebrate as the final seconds end Thursday night at Hugh Mills Stadium. The Trojans defeated Randolph-Clay 42-36, winning their first football game since Nov., 2012. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — For Dougherty’s Sewonjai Henderson, the ball must have seemed like it would never come down.
Henderson slipped behind his defender, hauled in the pass from quarterback Michael Whatley and sprinted to the endzone on an 81-yard touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter.
And just like that, more than a year’s worth of futility ended for the Dougherty Trojans on a muggy Thursday night at Hugh Mills Stadium. A 42-36 come-from-behind victory over Randolph-Clay ends a 12-game losing streak dating back to the 2012 season.
“The ball did seem like it was in the air forever,” Henderson said. “But this was a team effort to win this game. I couldn’t have done it without my line, my quarterback, my coaches, everyone on this team.”
LaDerrien Royal provided the clincher with a 20-yard gallop up the middle with 2:23 left to seal the victory despite a last-second touchdown and 2-point conversion from the Red Devils.
After digging themselves in a 20-6 deficit at halftime, the Trojans roared back with 36 second-half points.
But none was more satisfying than Henderson’s grab, who ignited a Dougherty crowd that seemed energized with the Trojans’ second-half play.
Just two plays earlier, Henderson was on the defensive end, batting away Randolph-Clay’s desperation pass in the endzone on fourth-and-3.
But you had to wonder if such a night was going to happen for Dougherty (1-1).
The left side of the cheerleaders’ banner came off the pole before the team ran onto the field.
Then Randolph-Clay crammed the ball down the Trojans’ throats on the opening possession, marching 67 yards on seven plays to grab an early lead advantage.
But Dougherty answered to tie, then fell behind by two scores. Marcus Smith broke loose on a 66-yard run to make it 12-6, then on the Trojans’ ensuing possession, Randolph-Clay’s Gary McCrae, a University of Georgia commit, went unblocked and sacked Whatley for a nine-yard loss, forcing a fumble that Randolph-Clay recovered.
Four plays later, quarterback Noah McFather scored on an 18-yard run, then Price added the 2-point conversion run to make it 20-6 with 9:35 left.
But Randolph-Clay (2-1) didn’t seem to be the same team in the second half. And just like Dougherty did in a loss last week against Calhoun County, the Trojans played a strong second half.
Only this time they finished.
“We’ve got to learn how to start off each game better,” Dougherty coach Corey Joyner said.
Royal scored on an 11-yard run early in the third, then Whatley pulled the Trojans to within eight when he dashed for a 47-yard touchdown run on a quarterback keeper.
But Royal tied the game with 9:51 left on a 19-yard burst up the middle, then added a 2-point conversion run to tie at 28.