Schley County loses heartbreaker to Marion County in state quarterfinals
By Staff Reports
BUENA VISTA, GA – The Schley County Wildcat football team ventured into uncharted territory as a football program. The Wildcats had never reached the GHSA Class A-Public state quarterfinals until this season. They would be facing their Region 4-1A rivals, the undefeated Marion County Eagles, for the third time this season. The Eagles had beaten the Wildcats twice already this season. The Wildcats came into Buena Vista hoping to beat Marion County when it mattered most: in the state playoffs. Unlike the two previous meetings, the Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the Eagles, but lost in heartbreaking fashion 34-27 on Friday, November 23, at Marion County High School.
There were two crucial special teams plays in the game that hurt Schley County. Both took place in the second half. Marion County recovered an on-side kick. Then later in the game, the Eagles recovered another kickoff when the two Wildcat returners failed to go for the ball. The on-side kick resulted in just a lost possession for the Wildcats, but the second kickoff recovered by the Eagles would result in the deciding touchdown.
Marion County won the toss and elected to receive. The Eagles drove the ball all the way down to the Wildcats’ two-yard line. The big play was a 41-yard completion from quarterback Trice McCannon to Jamil King at the two-yard line. The Eagles were confident they were going to push the ball across the goal line. However, the Wildcat defense kept the Eagles out of the end zone on the Eagles’ four attempts to score. It was a huge stand by the SC defense.
A few minutes later, Schley County had the ball and moved it into Marion County territory at the MC 39-yard line. Then Schley County running back Tra Sampson ran the ball 39 yards for a touchdown to give the Wildcats the lead. The extra point by William Blackwell was good, and the Wildcats got a dream start. They had a 7-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The Wildcat defense continued to make big plays in the game. On the final play of the first quarter, Schley County All-American defensive end Zykevious Walker sacked McCannon for a 15-yard loss, forcing the Eagles to punt to start the second quarter. Walker is being recruited by numerous NCAA Division I schools, including Georgia.
On their next possession, Schley County moved the ball from inside their own 20-yard line up near their 40-yard line. They tried to go for it on fourth-and-one, but the Eagles stopped the Wildcats to get the ball back in good field position on the Wildcats’ end of the field.
However, on first down, Walker brought McCannon down for his second sack of the night. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, McCannon ran a quarterback keeper on the next play down to the SC six-yard line. On the next play, McCannon scored on another quarterback keeper. However, the extra point was mishandled by the Eagles, and Schley County maintained a 7-6 lead with 6:19 left in the first half.
Late in the first half, McCannon threw a long pass to Akem Slaughter, who dropped the ball. This was a huge opportunity missed by the Eagles. Neither team could put any more points on the board, and Schley County had a 7-6 lead at halftime.
The Wildcats got the ball to start the second half. Schley County returner Jamyron Clayton ran the ball all the way to the SC 40-yard line to give the Wildcats excellent field position. From there, it was running back Zamon Ross who moved the ball to the MC 48-yard line on two carries. Then Sampson ran the ball for 10 yards down to the Eagles’ 38-yard line. After another three-yard run by Sampson, Ross caught a screen pass from Peavy and scampered 35 yards for a Wildcat touchdown. The extra point attempt by Blackwell was no good, but Schley County had a 13-6 lead early in the third quarter.
The Eagles responded by moving the ball down to the SC 30-yard line on their first possession of the second half. However, the Schley County defense made another important stand, forcing the Eagles into a fourth-and-three situation. However, on fourth down and-three, McCannon found Josh Rodgers for a 38-yard touchdown completion. The extra point by Wilfredo Vail-mendez was good, and the ball game was tied 13-13 with 5:39 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats punched back as Ross scored a 58-yard rushing touchdown to put Schley County back in the lead 19-13. Blackwell’s extra point attempt was blocked, but the Wildcats had regained the lead.
However, Marion County came into this game undefeated for a reason. The Eagles moved the ball into Schley County territory at the Wildcats’ 38-yard line. On second-and-eight, McCannon ran the ball down to the 16-yard line. A few of plays later, McCannon threw a short, seven-yard slant pass to Rodgers for a touchdown. The extra point by Vail-mendez was good, and the Eagles regained the lead 20-19 with seven seconds left in the third quarter.
However, the special teams for Marion County came up with a huge play on the ensuing kickoff. Marion County tried an on-side kick. Vail-mendez kicked the ball, and it glanced off of a Schley County player. The Eagles recovered the ball deep inside SC territory. However, the Schley County defense made another courageous stand, stopping the MC offense and forcing the Eagles to punt.
On Schley County’s next possession, the Wildcats had the ball at their own 37-yard line. On second-and-five, Ross ran the ball close to midfield. Then Sampson ran the ball into MC territory down to the Eagles’ 41-yard line. The Wildcats continued to run the ball, and Ross scored another rushing touchdown from 29-yards out. This time, the Wildcats decided to go for two points. Peavy threw a short pass to William Hardin to complete the two-point conversion, giving Schley County a 27-20 lead.
On the Eagles’ next possession, they had the ball at their own 26-yard line. The Eagles moved the ball all the way down to the SC 26-yard line. Much of the yardage was gained on a long completion from McCannon to Rodgers. Then on third-and 10, McCannon threw another touchdown pass to Rodgers. The extra point attempt by Vail-mendez was good, and the game was tied at 27-27 with 6:47 left in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats made a special teams mistake. Vail-mendez kicked the ball short and it went in between the two Schley Counter returners. Neither of them went for the ball, and the Eagles recovered it. A couple of plays later, Rodgers caught another touchdown pass from McCannon to give the Eagles the lead. Vail-mendez’s extra point was good, and Marion County led 34-27.
This ended up being the deciding touchdown.
The Wildcats tried to mount a drive to tie the game. On fourth-and-two, Sampson was able to get the necessary yardage to keep the drive alive. Zykevious Walker was able to run the ball for the necessary first-down yardage on third down, keeping the drive alive. On second–and six, Sampson ran the ball for six yards down near the MC 30-yard line. A couple of plays later, the Wildcats faced third down and six from the MC 25-yard line with 1:40 left in the game. Sampson was unable to get much, forcing a fourth-and-three situation. Then Schley County was flagged for a delay-of-game penalty. It was a fourth-and-eight situation. This was the ball game. On fourth-and-eight, the Wildcats gave the ball to Jamyron Clayton. However, the Eagles stopped Clayton on fourth down, and the ball went over on downs to Marion County. Schley County was out of timeouts, and the Eagles ran the clock out to win the game.
Schley County finishes the season at 9-3, but the 2018 Wildcats advanced further in the state playoffs than any other team in school history. Marion County (12-0) will host Clinch County (10-1) next Friday, November 30, in one of the state semifinals. Clinch County defeated Commerce 26-23 on Friday, November 23. In the other state semifinal, 12-0 Irwin County, the number one team in the state in the Class A-Public division, will host Pelham (12-0) next Friday, November 30. Pelham defeated Greene County 49-20 in the state quarterfinals on Friday, November 23.
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