Wildcats fall to Bowdon in state semifinals

Published 2:09 pm Monday, December 4, 2023

BOWDON, GA – It was a game that resembled a heavyweight boxing match, as both teams exchanged blow for blow. The Schley County Wildcats (SCHS) were hoping to avenge last year’s 39-31 loss to the Bowdon Red Devils (BHS) in the GHSA Class A Division 2 state championship game. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Red Devils issued the knock out blow with 5:53 to go in the game when BHS quarterback Kyler McGrinn threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Beasley. The Wildcats tried to respond in the closing minutes, but fell short to BHS 35-31 in the GHSA Class A Division 2 state semifinals at Bowdon High School.

“I am proud of the effort and character that our football team displayed,” SCHS Head Coach Darren Alford said. “We gave a maximum effort, but came up a little short. This has been the winningest senior group in the history of this program and they have set a standard of excellence for future generations. This program will rise up and accept the challenge and continue to play for championships.”

The Wildcats received the ball to start the game and they wasted no time in moving the ball deep into BHS territory, as Kendall Sims took the opening kickoff all the way down to the 11-yard line. A few plays later, quarterback Jay Kanazawa completed a touchdown pass to Sam Forehand. The extra point by Miguel Yanez was good and the Wildcats had an early 7-0 lead.

The SCHS defense ended up forcing and recovering a fumble on the Red Devils’ first possession, but BHS got the ball back shortly thereafter, as Kanazawa’s pass was intercepted.

The Red Devils took advantage of the turnover by driving the ball deep into SCHS territory. Then Jordan Beasley scored from just a few yards out. The extra point was no good, but the Wildcats had their lead trimmed to 7-6.

Not long thereafter, the Red Devils were able to orchestrate another scoring drive that was capped off by another touchdown from Beasley. BHS went for two and got the two-point conversion, taking a 14-7 lead.

Schley County senior wide receiver JaLewis Solomon is seen here competing against Bowdon.
Photo by Ken Gustafson

However, the Wildcats had an answer, as they were able to mount another scoring drive by using the running attack of running back Zayden Walker. Walker capped off the drive by scoring a rushing touchdown from just a couple of yards out. The extra point by Yanez was good and the score was tied at 14-14.

Not long thereafter, the Wildcats were able to mount another scoring drive, thanks in part to some scrambling by Kanazawa on third and four. However, on third and goal from the six, Kanazawa’s pass was broken up in the end zone, resulting in fourth down. The Wildcats elected to send Yanez out for a short field goal, which he made to give SCHS a 17-14 lead at the half.

The Red Devils got the ball to start the second half, but the SCHS defense was able to get a stop and get the ball back as the result of a turnover on downs. However, the offense couldn’t get anything going on its next possession and was forced to punt.

Schley County senior quarterback Jay Kanazawa is seen here competing against Bowdon.
Photo by KEn Gustafson

However, on the next BHS possession, the Red Devils came up with a huge play, as McGrinn completed a pass to Kaiden Prothro, who then ran all the way to the end zone for a BHS touchdown. The extra point was good and the Wildcats suddenly found themselves trailing 21-17.

However, as they’ve done all season, the Wildcats had an answer. Kanazawa was able to find JaLewis Solomon for a huge gain. A couple of plays later, Zayden Walker scored from a yard out and the Wildcats were back in the lead 24-21 with 4:36 to go in the third quarter.

However, the Wildcats did not have the lead for very long. On the Red Devils’ next possession, they had the ball at midfield facing third down and five. They gave the ball to Beasley, who not only got the necessary five yards, but 45 more yards for a touchdown. The extra point was good and the Wildcats trailed again by the score of 28-24.

However, this game was much like a heavyweight boxing match, with both contestants matching blow for blow. The Wildcats responded by once again moving the ball inside the BHS 20-yard line. A few plays later, Walker scored another rushing touchdown from a yard out. The extra point by Yanez was good and the Wildcats were back in front 31-28 with 10:05 left in the game.

However, the Red Devils issued another blow of their own, as McGrinn threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Beasley. The extra point was good and the Red Devils were back in front 35-31 with 5:53 left in the game.

On the Wildcats’ next possession, they once again were able to move the ball into BHS territory, but on Fourth down and six, the SCHS offense was stopped just shy of the line to gain and the Wildcats had to turn the ball over on downs.

On the next BHS possession, Beasley was able to brake through the SCHS defense and scampered all the way into SCHS territory. However, a few plays later, the Wildcats were able to get a stop on fourth and four to give their offense one last chance for victory.

On the Wildcats’ next and last possession of the game, they were able to use their two-minute drill to move the ball into BHS territory. However, on fourth down and 10 from the BHS 30, Kanazawa’s pass was intercepted by Devan Powell and it sealed the 35-31 victory for the Red Devils.

SCHS finishes the 2023 season with a record of 13-1. Bowdon (12-2) will advance to the GHSA Class A Division 2 state championship game to face Manchester on Monday, December 11.