NORCROSS, Ga. - It's over.
The football season at Warren County High School has come to an end, but not before the Screaming Devils were able to make it back into the Class A state playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
Warren County's season abruptly ended last Friday night when they fell to the Wesleyan Wolves 42-19 in the first-round of the playoffs at Henderson Stadium and Robinson Field in Norcross. The Screaming Devils, who had been the number four-seeded team out of Region 7-A, conclude their season with a 4-7 overall record.
The game between Warren County and Wesleyan was actually much closer than the final score indicated. Going into the third quarter, the Screaming Devils trailed the Wolves by just eight points, 21-13. By the end of that quarter, Warren County found themselves behind 28-19.
Unfortunately for them, they never found the end zone again.
"We just kind of ran out of bodies - of gasoline - after three quarters," lamented Warren County Head Coach Lee Hutto. "We had them on the ropes, but we couldn't score. I just wanted one more win. I really felt that we could beat Wesleyan."
The story of the Screaming Devils was numbers this season, or a lack of such. Warren County closed out the season with just 20 players - fewer than they've ended up with in the previous two years with Coach Hutto at the helm.
"We really need to find a way to get our numbers up here at Warren County," said Coach Hutto. "That continues to cause our football program problems."
He praised the efforts of his players this season.
"We've been through a lot of adversities this season and the players we were able to finish with really put in a lot of hard work," said Coach Hutto. "I thank them for their hard work. We were a real young team. And we were inexperienced at a lot of positions."
He personally extended his gratitude to the three seniors on this year's team. They include Jonathan Lewis, Kentrell Latimore and Antonio Benton.
"This team is really going to miss all three of those players," said Coach Hutto.
As for Lewis, Coach Hutto said, "My heart hurts for him. He's just a special player who loves the game. He's a real special kid and I wish him, Kentrell and Antonio only the best in life after graduation."
Another player praised for having had a great season was Coby Reynolds, the team's leading rushing this season with 1,134 yards.
"He did a real good job running with the ball for us this season," said Coach Hutto.
Against Wesleyan, Lewis turned in a most impressive performance - playing both ways.
After Benton was forced to punt the ball away to the Wolves on Warren County's first possession, a Wesleyan player fumbled the ball, attempting to make a catch. Lewis was there to recover it for the Screaming Devils at the Wolves' 36 with 9:55 left in the initial quarter.
The turnover actually led to Warren County getting on the scoreboard first. Latimore scored on a 15-yard run with 7:44 left in the first. Benton's extra point kick gave Warren County a 7-0 lead.
That lead didn't hold up long, though, as the Wolves came howling back with a touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. It came on a 34-yard run by Kyle Karempelis. Spencer Short knotted the score with the extra point.
After Warren County was forced to punt on their next possession, the Wolves again managed to find the end zone that increased their lead to 14-7. Karempelis scored on a 16-yard run with only a minute remaining in the first. Karempelis ended up rushing for 212 yards and scored three touchdowns in helping his team to victory.
Warren County's Tay Erwin later recovered a fumble early in the second quarter, but again they weren't able to muster the kind of offense needed to keep the chains moving.
Defensively, the Screaming Devils rose to the occasion to force the Wolves to punt on their next possession. And suddenly the momentum of the game switched towards Warren County.
On a second down and 10 play from the Warren County 45, Coby Reynolds, who ended up rushing for 101 yards in the game, then burst up the middle on a 55-yard touchdown romp. The score came with 7:33 left in the first half. Benton's extra point could have tied the score at 14-14, but the kick failed and resulted in Warren County trailing 14-13.
The Wolves later went up 21-13 before halftime.
Warren County's last score of the game came on 7-yard run by Benton with 8:34 left in the third quarter. The Wolves, meanwhile, scored three more times - one of them on a 31-yard interception by Daniel Cardwell.