The Winder-Barrow High School football team started the new season on the right foot as the Bulldoggs held off a late rally attempt by visiting Jackson County to record a 26-21 win at W. Clair Harris Stadium.
WBHS (1-0) led 26-14 following a 5-yard touchdown run by Chandon Sullivan with 3:41 left and appeared to have the game in hand. However, Jackson County quickly moved down the field on an 80-yard drive and cut the lead to five points with 2:42 left after a 2-yard score by Malik Tuck.
The Panthers attempted an onside kick, but Winder-Barrow’s Ryan Evan recovered. The Bulldoggs, however, fumbled the football away giving Jackson County a golden opportunity as the Panthers set up at the WBHS 40-yard line with 2:38 still to play. JCCHS (0-1) was unable to move the football, however, and turned it over on downs on fourth and 11. Trey Russell had a key sack during the series.
The Bulldoggs then ran out the remainder of the time to start the 2013 season 1-0.
“This feels great,” Sullivan said after the game. “We all worked very hard to prepare for the season and it’s great to begin with a victory.”
For WBHS head coach David Wagner, who began his fourth season directing the program, the win was especially sweet.
“We had some turnovers and some penalties but we overcame all of that,” the coach said. “When you are on the winning side, none of that matters, at least for the moment. Nobody is perfect, but when you fight for 48 minutes, you can achieve perfection as a football team.”
The game was filled with penalties on both teams, especially in the first half. In the first alone the teams combined for 17 penalties. Jackson County was not flagged in the second half but WBHS was called for six more infractions.
JCCHS fumbled the first play of the game and it took WBHS only one snap to find the end zone on a 25-yard run by Sullivan, who finished with three touchdowns. The Bulldoggs moved in front 13-0 on a 29-yard pass from Hunter Cooper to Markesio Anderson with 11:50 remaining before halftime.
JCCHS got on the scoreboard on a 35-yard pass from Jacob Lewis to Xavier Harper with 8:21 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers took their only lead on a 51-yard run by Keyshawn Curry on their opening series of the second half. JCCHS had chances to build on the slim lead but had to punt on their next two possessions. WBHS regained the advantage on a 65-yard drive capped by Sullivan’s 9-yard run.
“It’s a great experience,” said Winder-Barrow senior Soloman Sims. “We’ve worked hard for it all summer. The offense and defense did what they had to do to win. All of my teammates played great and the coaches did a great job getting us ready.”
With numerous penalties called in the game, in addition to numerous pass attempts, the contest was one of the last in the area to be completed Friday night.
“After the first quarter ended it seemed like it should be halftime,” Wagner said. “On the penalties, the officials have to make split second decisions. I saw some on film I agreed with and some I didn’t agree with. For us, we had some long running plays called back when we were trying to make blocks that, in the end, would not have affected the play one way or another. We have to learn to just be a spectator when the block wouldn’t make a difference one way or the other.”