WARRENTON, Ga. - What a way to ring in the new stadium.
Down by a point with less than two minutes to go, Warren County stormed the length of the field and scored a touchdown with 7 seconds left to clinch an important region win 31-24 - and wrap up home-field advantage for the first round of the state playoffs.
"Getting a win is a great way to open up this new football stadium," said Warren County Head Coach Lee Hutto, whose Screaming Devils are now 6-2 overall and 5-1 in Region 7-A. "...Our kids made some mistakes early in the game, which caused us to get down, but we bounced back because they never gave up. I was extremely proud of them."
Warren County's winning score came when senior wide receiver Travis Burley got loose on the sideline and leaped high in the air to grab a 26-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Tommy Seals.
"I kept my eyes on the ball the whole time," said a jubilant Burley after the game. "When I got my hands on the football, I said to myself, 'Game over."'
Seals felt confident, too.
"I never doubted that he wasn't going to catch the pass," Seals said. "I knew we were going to win, because we never gave up as a team."
The outcome of the game actually wasn't decided until after the ensuing kickoff. Wilkinson County's Bernardis Hughes returned it deep into Warren County territory before being gang tackled with no time left on the clock.
"It was a great win," said junior offensive guard and defensive linebacker Jonathan Lewis. "I think Mr. Massey was looking down on us when we scored the last touchdown and on the kickoff afterwards."
Albert J. Massey, former principal of Warren County High School, died of a heart attack earlier this year. It was rare that he ever missed a football or basketball game at the school.
By virtue of Lincoln County having been upset 12-7 by Twiggs County in Jeffersonville on the same night the Screaming Devils defeated Wilkinson County, it now creates a three-way tie for first place. Warren County ends their regular season by traveling to Sparta to take on the Hancock Central Bulldogs this Friday night.
Against Wilkinson County, Warren County put themselves in a hole early, committing several turnovers deep in their own territory. In all, the Screaming Devils committed a total of five turnovers against Wilkinson County - four by way of fumbles and another on an interception.
"We've got to find a way to cut out mistakes, like turnovers," Coach Hutto said.
The Warriors got off to a quick start, scoring a pair of touchdowns to take a 12-0 lead and all but silencing a large crowd. It didn't take long for the Screaming Devils to answer the call, as they struck for back-to-back touchdowns of their own to take a 16-12 lead by halftime.
Senior running back Devarrus Reynolds exploded up the middle on a 70-yard run for the team's first score. Seals then connected with Burley on the two-point conversion pass to cut Wilkinson County's lead to 12-8 with 8:47 left in the second quarter. With just 33 seconds remaining in the first half, Seals scored his 12th touchdown of the season on a one yard run. He also provided the two-point conversion.
In the third quarter, the Warriors regained the lead, 18-16. Seals' 40-yard touchdown run with 4:46 to play in the fourth and final quarter gave Warren County the lead back, 23-18, following Antonio Benton's extra point kick. The Warriors came right back with a go-ahead touchdown with just 1:41 to left in the game on a 22-yard pass play.
The Screaming Devils rambled for 262 rushing yards - Devarrus Reynolds leading the way with 166 yards on 21 carries. Seals added 71 yards on 19 carries, while Kentrell Latimore had 23 yards on two carries.
In the passing department, Seals completed 8-of-15 passes for 120 yards. Burley caught five passes for 71 yards, Reynolds, 1-19; Quay Lester, 1-19; and Coby Reynolds, 1-11.