Fourth-and-two, game and season in the balance.
Fourth-and-one, game and season in the balance.
"It was just good clock management," Thomas County Central coach Ed Pilcher said Monday morning, laughing the laugh of a winner.
Somehow, in ways that probably not even Las Vegas would make odds on, the Yellow Jackets found a way to convert in each of these dire circumstances. Every single time.And in taking a careful look back at the game and the little things that might have gone the other way, it was downright frightening.
"What might have been the play of the game," Pilcher said, "was (David) Dawson's run on fourth-and-three."
It was in overtime and QB Erik Walden was already bunged up with an injured ankle. Running back Moses Cochran had just left the game with an injured right knee and when Walden mishandled the third-down snap — a near-fumble — a fourth-and-one became fourth-and-three.
So here was Central's predicament. Walden couldn't really run it; he was hurting. Cochran was out of the game. It was up to Dawson to carry the torch.
When the ball was snapped, a Marist defensive lineman shot through and hit Dawson just as he took the handoff.
Cole Grier barely was able to get a shoulder pad on the guy to keep him from making the tackle.
Dawson fought that off and surged forward to the middle of the line where two more Marist guys hit him and again, he lurched forward.
"We did not have the movement (on the line) that we wanted to," Pilcher said, "but he made a heck of a run.
"It was fourth-and-three, and he picks up four, and it could have been 94 the way he ran that thing.
"That may have been the run of the year."
Of course, there were others. Cochran scored twice on fourth down, plus added the game-winning two-point conversion, following some great blocking by Russell Orr, Dean McDermond and Cris Crosby.
And on the two-pointer, watching the replay in slow motion, a Marist defender shot through the gap and could easily have had Cochran behind the line for a two-yard loss. Except that either Moses dipped so low he hid the ball, or the end had orders to go after Walden or Dawson.
Cochran and the defender brushed by each other, like guys trying to make a train at the last second. But Cochran wound up in the end zone and Central took a one-point win. Again.
As a result of their magnificent performance at the Georgia Dome, Pilcher's club will get to make the four-and-a-half hour trek to Thomson on Friday night to play for the Class AAAA state title.
It'll be Central's sixth shot at a state title in 10 years. They've won the other five.
But this will be a tall order for a healthy team. And Central is pretty banged up.
"We've got a bus-load going to therapy this week," Pilcher said. That includes Erik Walden (sprained ankle), Moses Cochran (swollen knee), Antwan Thomas (sprained ankle), Ben Williams (injured hip) and Denzel Marable (sprained knee.)
"We're going to patch ‘em up as best we can," Pilcher said. "That's all we can do. We've got to get them put together the best we can."
They'll need every one of them for mighty Thomson, a team that's 14-0, too, and rolling.
"Everybody in the state's picking them, and I can see why," Pilcher said. "They'll be the best team we've played."