KENNESAW — Harrison standout senior running back David Roberts had been quiet most of the night Friday, Nov. 15, but that all changed in the fourth quarter.
Roberts touched the ball three times in the final period and scored three rushing touchdowns, including ones on his team’s first two offensive snaps of the quarter, as the Hoyas pulled away from Winder-Barrow 45-25 in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAAAA playoffs.
Second-ranked Harrison (11-0) advanced to the second round to take on Brunswick, while the Bulldoggs’ season ended at 3-7.
Roberts finished the night with 126 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries. His final one of the night, on which he went up the middle untouched for 53 yards, salted the game away with 1:47 remaining after the Bulldoggs had tried to stage a late rally with a pair of touchdown passes from Jhaydon Sullivan to Brett Landis.
Roberts’ performance was reminiscent of the one he had against Winder-Barrow in 2017 when he ran for over 130 yards and three scores in a second-round playoff win over the Bulldoggs.
“He’s a good player and did a good job there late. My hat’s off to (Harrison),” Winder-Barrow coach Ed Dudley said. “We’ve been a competitive team all year and I’m proud of our seniors and younger players for getting us back in this thing for a while. I just couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to coach this year. They made it fun with their great attitude and great effort.”
The Bulldoggs had hoped to pull off an upset of the Hoyas but, despite forcing four turnovers, they weren’t able to prevent explosive plays and were hamstrung by 15 penalties.
Winder-Barrow was bitten by a miscue in the kicking game during its first possession of the game when James Ziglor blocked a punt and returned it to the Bulldogg 27. The Hoyas took six plays from there to score as Brandon Godfrey plunged in from two yards out.
The Bulldoggs got their first major break when Harrison running back Marcus Bleazard was hit and the ball popped out and landed in the hands of Andrew Lewis, who returned it 45 yards for a score. Harlin Brown’s extra-point attempt missed and the Hoyas remained ahead 7-6.
They extended that lead to 14-6 with a quick 59-yard march. Ziglor had a 32-yard run down to the Winder-Barrow 8 and Roberts carried it in from there. After a three-and-out by the Bulldoggs, the Hoyas added another score when Mason Babay caught a slant pass and took it 69 yards to the house to make it 21-6 early in the second quarter.
The Bulldoggs pulled to within 21-9 on a 40-yard field goal by Brown with 1:30 left in the half and had a chance to get closer following an interception by Landis. But Brown’s 54-yard field goal attempt came up short, keeping it a 12-point game at the break.
The teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter — a 42-yarder by Brown answered with a 41-yarder by Harrison’s Christian Lowery — before Roberts took over the game in the fourth. He carried Bulldogg defenders on his back for a 10-yard touchdown run on the first play of the quarter. Then after Winder-Barrow turned the ball over on downs at its 30, Roberts took a handoff and scored, bowling over Zack Price at the 10 before carrying it in the rest of the way to make it 38-12 with 8:20 remaining.
The senior duo of Sullivan and Landis hooked up two final times for scores — the first a long 43-yard pass and the final one a 3-yard pass that was set up by a fumble recovery by Rosseau Asu Abang.
Sullivan finished the night 15-of-30 for 153 yards and the two touchdown passes to Landis. For the year, he threw for 1,441 yards and 11 touchdowns against four interceptions. He also ran for 724 yards and 13 scores, accounting for a total of 2,165 yards (third-most in a single season in program history) and 24 touchdowns. He finishes as the fourth-leading passer in school history.
Landis, who has been Sullivan’s top target the last two seasons, caught eight passes for 119 yards against Harrison and wound up with 55 receptions for 909 yards and seven touchdowns on the season, finishing as the second-leading receiver in program history.
Junior running back J.C. Green finished the night with 82 yards on 21 carries and had 893 yards with eight touchdowns on the year. He added 22 receptions for 137 yards to finish with over 1,000 total yards.
After getting back to the playoffs in Dudley’s second year at the helm, the Bulldoggs will now turn their attention to the offseason and replacing several key seniors.
In addition to Sullivan and Landis as the two key departing playmakers on offense, linebackers Nate Allen, Carson Jackson, and Asu Abang and corners Price and Demarcus Beauford will need to be replaced.
“We’ve got to raise our level of play, there’s no question,” Dudley said of the players set to return. “We’re going to try to have a great offseason and come back stronger next year.”
W 6 3 3 13 — 25
H 14 7 3 21 — 45
H—Brandon Godfrey 2 run (Christian Lowery kick)
W—Andrew Lewis 45 fumble return (kick failed)
H—David Roberts 8 run (Lowery kick)
H—Mason Babay 69 pass from Gavin Hall (Lowery kick)
W—Harlin Brown 40 FG
W—Brown 42 FG
H—Lowery 41 FG
H—Roberts 10 run (Lowery kick)
H—Roberts 30 run (Lowery kick)
W—Brett Landis 43 pass from Jhaydon Sullivan (Brown kick)
W—Landis 3 pass from Sullivan (pass failed)
H—Roberts 53 run (Lowery kick)