MACON — Almost. The Terrell Academy Eagles left everything on the field and almost found a way to win the GISA state football championship Friday at the Five Star Stadium on the campus of Mercer University in Macon. Almost.

The Eagles lost to the War Eagles of Brentwood School of Sandersville by a final of 37-28. The Eagles from Dawson were unable to overcome four big turnovers, five late penalties, and several big plays by Brentwood.

A fumble and an interception in the first half ended two Terrell Academy drives and led to one of Brentwood’s touchdowns. In the second half, one of the interceptions ended up giving the War Eagles their final points on a field goal. Late in the fourth quarter, the Eagles were penalized for roughing the quarterback and got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which cost the Eagles dearly. There were other penalties in the fourth quarter as well, including three motion penalties against the Eagles.

But Brentwood won with a 75-yard touchdown run, a 31-yard touchdown run, and a 73-yard touchdown pass. Take away those three plays and there is a big difference in the game.

The two teams were evenly matched. They both wore blue and white uniforms and both use the Eagle as their mascot — though Brentwood is technically the War Eagles.

Brentwood (11-1) came into the championship game with a 10-game winning streak using a high-scoring offense that had averaged more than 44 points per game since a season-opening loss to John Milledge Academy. Terrell Academy (11-2) had averaged 43 points per game in its 11 wins.

Brentwood seemed in control and had the momentum from the beginning when Wells Muller took the handoff on the first play from scrimmage and blew around the right side of the Terrell Academy defense and raced 75 yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Fifteen seconds had elapsed off the clock and Brentwood was already ahead. But it didn’t faze the Terrell Academy Eagles. They continued to battle and battle throughout. Every time it looked like Brentwood was going to put the game in the bag early, Terrell came back.

At the end of the third quarter, the momentum swung towards the Eagles and the excitement from the Terrell Academy fans grew loud when the Terrell Academy defense, down by only six points — 34-28, stopped a Brentwood drive and forced a punt. Terrell Academy took possession at the 38-yard line and quarterback Lawrence Carpenter hit Sharnard Pittman with a quick pass for about eight yards, but the play was called back because of a holding penalty. Then Carpenter handed off to running back Andy Alston, who raced across midfield to the 47-yard line before Brentwood could stop him. The crowd from Dawson was ecstatic until the next play when Brentwood’s Drew Johnson picked off Carpenter’s pass and ended the drive.

Brentwood, which had not had a drive that took a lot of time all day, methodically and slowly moved down the field. The Terrell Academy defense forced Brentwood to go for it twice on fourth down and both times, the War Eagles were successful. Then, deep in Terrell territory, Brentwood was flagged three times for a false start, moving the War Eagles back to the 20-yard line. They were faced with a third-and-18 play when the time was down under four minutes remaining. Brentwood’s senior quarterback Robert Jackson went back to pass and Terrell senior Luke Addison picked off the pass and again the Terrell fans erupted.

But the excitement was short-lived because the Eagles were penalized for roughing the passer. The Terrell defense never let the War Eagles into the end zone but kicker Seth Taylor booted a 27-yard field goal that put the War Eagles up by nine.

Terrell still did not quit. Brentwood’s Thomas Denton intercepted another Eagle pass and it looked like the game was over. But on the next play the Eagles stripped the ball away and Terrell’s Jay Austin recovered to give Terrell another chance. Terrell moved all the way down the field and with less than a minute to play they were on the three yard line. Terrell never could get across the goal line for that final touchdown and Brentwood took over on downs.

The Eagles did score four touchdowns in the game, the first of which was one for the highlight reel. Addison made a leaping one-handed catch with a defender right on top of him for the first Eagle score of the game. Alston scored two rushing touchdowns — on a two-yard run and the other a 45-yard touchdown run. The final Eagles touchdown was a pass from Carpenter to Marquerious Mitchell, who is a sophomore defensive end.

On a brighter note, some of the players did get to meet Leesburg native, country music star and American Idol judge Luke Bryan. Bryan was an honorary captain at the game for Brentwood and he did the coin toss with the officials before the game began.

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