Source: Gwinnett Prep Sports
SUWANEE — A 42-second stretch made all the difference for South Gwinnett’s football team.
Most of South’s contest at Peachtree Ridge was evenly matched, but three plays in under a minute tipped the scales dramatically in favor of the visitors.
Holding a slim 19-14 lead under a minute into the fourth quarter, the Comets stopped a fourth down attempt, scored a 57-yard touchdown pass and forced a fumble on three consecutive plays to grab a stranglehold on the game.
That sequence was enough to propel South (5-2) to a 26-14 win, spoiling homecoming for Peachtree Ridge (3-2) in what was the first ever meeting between the two programs.
The decisive sequence started when Peachtree Ridge elected to go for it on fourth-and-35 at the South 43, looking to take the lead for the first time since the second quarter. Quarterback Nick Best’s pass fell incomplete over the middle, turning the ball over on downs.
South quarterback Rion White immediately seized his opportunity. He hit senior receiver Corey Johnston for a 57-yard TD, the second time that duo connected for a score on the night. White finished the night 12-for-20 passing for 225 yards, and an even 100 of those yards went to Johnson. That play made it 26-14 South, forcing the Lions into a must-score situation.
After a kickoff return moved the ball into South territory, Peachtree Ridge hit what appeared to be a big seam route down into the red zone. But receiver Brandon Wright fumbled the ball, and Amari Williams came out with it for the Comets.
Three plays, three big momentum swings all in favor of Davenport’s team.
“They (Peachtree Ridge) had a first down on that (last) play before the fumbled,” Davenport said. “They have some big playmakers we were afraid would make big plays, so to get the ball in our own hands and determine our own fate was good.”
The breakneck pace the fourth quarter started with was similar to the second quarter action. South led 3-0 after a tepid first quarter, but the tenor of the game changed once it flipped over to the second. After three points in the first dozen minutes, the teams combined for 30 in the second quarter.
It started immediately when Best launched a deep ball towards Jairus Griffin on the second play of the quarter. Griffin was both double covered and interfered with on the play, but still managed to make a diving catch around two defenders for an acrobatic score to get the Lions on the board.
The lead didn’t even last five minutes. South scored for the second time in as many possessions, relying heavily on lead back Khoreem Miller. Miller finished the game with 97 yards and had the final four carries of the drive to put the Comets back on top.
White found Johnston for a 24-yard score two possessions later to give the Comets a 16-7 lead. It was a coverage bust for the Lions that left the receiver wide open inside the 10, and White took full advantage of it.
“Those kids are really good players,” Davenport said. “Rion needed a little bit more seasoning; he’s a kid that just got here for us. We think it’s coming together.”
The Lions added a score on another Best-to-Griffin pass, but gave up a field goal just under the halftime wire that made the score 19-14 South at the break.
The third quarter was a stalemate, leading up to the big trio of plays right after the fourth quarter started. And while three plays swung the pendulum towards the Comets, Peachtree Ridge head coach Reggie Stancil knews his team needed to be better in the three quarters beforehand.
“A lot of things went on in the first half that contributed to why it was 26-14,” Peachtree Ridge Stancil said. “You can’t just knock it on one play. We did some things all night where we should have been better, and if we had been better it would’ve been a different outcome.”
After the fumble that gave the ball back to the Comets up 26-14, they shut the game down completely. The Lions’ offense walked off the field with 10:43 left, and never stepped on it again.
South went on a 21-play drive that consumed the entirety of the clock, gaining 68 yards and salting the game away in dominant fashion up front.
Now both teams will have to turn around and return to region play with tough tests. The Comets will travel to Parkview next week, while the Lions will hit the road to face North Gwinnett.
“It’s a tough road ahead with Parkview, Brookwood and Newton,” Davenport said. “We’re looking forward to that.”
SOUTH GWINNETT 26, PEACHTREE RIDGE 14
South Gwinnett 3 16 0 7 — 26
Peachtree Ridge 0 14 0 0 — 14
South: Parwez Tanha 31 FG 3:59
Peachtree Ridge: Jairus Griffin 34 pass from Nick Best (Eddie Park kick) 11:13
South: Khoreem Miller 1 rush (kick failed) 6:22
South: Corey Johnston 24 pass from Rion White (Tanha kick) 2:29
Peachtree Ridge. Griffin 9 pass from Best (Park kick) :40
South: Tanha 28 FG :00
South: Johnston 57 pass from White (Tanha kick) 11:15