Central-T wraps Region 1 nail-biter

Talk about drama. Talk about a nail-biter. Talk about a region championship war. Friday night's Thomas County Central-Ware County Region 1, Class AAAA championship had all the elements of a great football game.

Two evenly matched teams, lots and lots of big plays and more emotion than a week on Lifetime.

A simply brilliant performance by junior Erik Walden, rushing for 220 yards, lifted the Yellow Jackets to a 31-28 skin-of-their-teeth victory. And it may be a while before the Central side can relax and enjoy this one.

Central looked to blow Ware County out of the water at the start, amassing a 17-0 lead with less than a minute to go in the first half. But a Ware TD pass with 13 seconds left opened the door. And when Ware County took the second half kickoff and stormed down the field, scoring on a 12-yard TD pass to Maurice Goettie, it was 17-14. Watch out!Walden put Central back ahead with a 15-yard TD run, 24-14, then he broke a nifty 48-yarder to make it a 31-14 TCC edge with 5:15 to go.

That's it, right?


Two plays later, a 21-yard TD strike to Jurvis Kay made it 31-21. And when Ware County got the ball back with 3:24 to go, a perfectly executed fumblerooski resulted in a 32-yard TD run by Alton Bennett (even their guards are fast) and with the PAT, it was 31-28, Thomas County Central an agonizing 2:46 away from a region title.

But fortunately for Pilcher and company, the offensive line and running back Moses Cochran — a simply ferocious 111-yard night, giving him 1,004 for the season — refused to back down. They managed three more first downs and Central held.

"I'm really proud of these kids," Pilcher said. "They made it tough. They got us with some trick plays. Some great tricks plays. But our offense, well, they just moved the ball great."

And Erik Walden, well, when you can gain 220 yards on a defense that has spent weeks trying to stop you, that's quarterbacking.

"I'm just really excited we won a region title," Walden said afterwards.

The Yellow Jackets opened the game with one of their most impressive drives of the season, driving 97 yards in seven plays, the big play, a whomping 61-yard run by Erik Walden, a jaunt that put the junior quarterback over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

Central also threw a little surprise at the Gators on second-and-12 from the 13, Walden lofting one into the end zone for a wide-open David Dawson.

With Jonatan Abarca's kick, it was 7-0 Central. When Ware County fumbled on a second-and-three from the Central 27, Jermel Daniels recovered it at the 28.

After the drive stalled, Abarca trotted in and nailed a 28-yard field goal to stretch the Central lead to 10-0.

Just before the half, Central added one more score with another extraordinary 97-yard march, actually 99 since Walden fumbled the series' opening snap.

Walden eventually brought it in, plunging from a yard out with 41 seconds left to make it 17-0, but a long way from over.

At 10-0, Central fans and players aren't complaining. Winning a region title -- that's something to brag about. Thing is, it's only a start. The playoffs begin next week.

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