There have been plenty of offensive fireworks and heart-pounding finishes in recent years when the football teams for Apalachee High School and Loganville High School meet.
Last Friday was no exception as the Wildcats rallied for a 35-28 win putting AHS in the victory column for the first time in Region 8-AAAAA play in 2012. Trailing 28-21 at halftime, the Wildcats put two scores on the board in the second half and kept the Loganville offense out of the end zone.
“We had a great offensive night,” AHS coach Shane Davis said. “Hats off to our kids on that side of the football. I thought (offensive coordinator) Joel (Miller) called a great game. We were very patient. Sometimes you get to a point where you feel like you need to make something big happen. However, when you continue to get first downs then you have to realize what you are doing is working.”
Taking the first possession of the third quarter, the Wildcats moved 80 yards capped on an 8-yard scoring run by Eric Tanner. Zay Henry had a key 37-yard run during the drive.
The AHS defense then forced LHS to turn the football over on downs on the Red Devils’ initial second half series.
The Wildcats then put together a 16-play drive, burning time off the clock in the process. AHS converted two fourth down plays and then hooked up for an 18-yard pass from Clint Ashe to Jermaine Smith for what proved to be the winning touchdown with 6:07 remaining.
The Red Devils moved into Apalachee territory but a fumble stopped the drive. LHS would not get the football back as the AHS offense ran out the remaining 2:54 to preserve the win. The Red Devils still had three timeouts after the fumble but the game ended with LHS still having two timeouts left. The Wildcat running game continued to gain first downs — including runs by Tanner and Ashe — and the clock simply ran out for the host Red Devils.
“In the first half we were struggling a little bit defensively,” Davis said. “We were reeling. However, we were able to keep it close. Our defensive staff made a couple of adjustments at halftime and made plays when we needed them.”
The ball control ground game by AHS in the second half only allowed Loganville two possessions. Davis, even early in the fourth quarter, was trying to slow the pace of the game and would signal to quarterback Ashe when to run a play.
While the Wildcats did not throw the football much, Ashe was 3-for-4 with a touchdown. A fourth and four pass completion to Smith kept the game winning drive alive.
“We didn’t throw it much all night,” Davis said. “However, when you have confidence in your quarterback and receiver combination, it gives you that extra threat that the defense has to look out for. The touchdown pass was a big play that Clint and Jermaine executed well. It was also a great call by Joel in that situation.”
Tanner finished the night with 188 yards on two scores on 24 carries. Ashe was 3-for-4 for 30 yards.
LHS took the game’s opening kickoff and marched 65 yards on six plays for an early 7-0 lead.
AHS responded with an 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard run by Kyle Jackson with 5:00 remaining in the opening quarter.
An interception by Alantae Billings stopped the next drive by LHS and gave AHS a chance for its first lead. The Wildcats moved 57 yards and went in front 14-7 on an 11-yard run by Tanner.
The Red Devils would even the score on an 18-yard run by Braxton Beck with 8:55 left before halftime. The offensive fireworks were far from over, however.
A 63-yard run by Tanner would set up another AHS score, this time on an 8-yard scamper by Henry. LHS would score two more times before the half was over for a 28-20 lead going into the locker room.
Both teams had a high level of success on the ground. LHS rushed for 370 yards while AHS had 333.
Despite all the yardage and points by the two teams, it was a defensive play — a fumble recovery by the the Wildcats’ Kevin Sewell — which helped seal the region victory.
“We knew at some point the defense had to step up,” said senior Rakim Peters. “We kept fighting and trying to make a play and we were finally able to do that. It was a very physical game. It’s always like that when we play against Loganville. We knew it was going to be tough. It certainly feels good to get this victory. We hope to keep it going next week when we play Cedar.”