Now that's football • Dogs beat Gordon Central 24-21 in Round 1 of playoffs
by nick nunn
photos by jesse walker, josiah connelly
In a breathtaking finish last Friday, the Bulldogs secured a 24-21 victory over Gordon Central in the final seconds of the game. Thanks to the win, Morgan will advance to the second round of playoffs, taking on the North Hall Trojans this Friday in Gainesville.
From the beginning, Morgan County didn’t look as good as it has for most of the season.
The Bulldogs only advanced a total of 10 yards on their first drive before they were forced to punt.
Fortunately, Morgan County’s offense was running up to speed by the time Gordon Central got the ball. A big sack by Joey Perpoli put the Warriors with 12 yards to go on a fourth down.
The Bulldogs’ second drive was studded with big runs, including a 47-yard carry by Michael Gray, but it was Trent Hawk who took the ball into the endzone for Morgan County’s first touchdown of the night.
With three minutes and 57 seconds left in the first quarter, the Dogs were on the board 7-0.
Unfortunately, Gordon Central scored on the next drive with a 63-yard run after their running back broke a tackle by Marquis Benton.
Morgan County lined up for a field goal attempt in the second quarter, but Campbell Harrison’s kick was wide, leaving the score tied 7-7.
The Warriors incurred a series of penalties on their next drive, which gave them a deficit that proved too large to overcome.
After the Bulldogs got the ball back, Gray fumbled on a passing play, which gave Gordon Central the ball on Morgan County’s 40-yard line. They scored a few plays later, putting the Bulldogs behind for the first time in the game 7-14.
Neither team was able to add any more points to their score by the end of the second quarter, despite a field goal attempt by Gordon Central in the last seconds of the half.
Morgan County’s first drive of the second half brought the Bulldogs within field goal range, and, for the second time in the game, Harrison attempted to score three points for the Dogs.
This time, his kick was successful, and the Bulldogs shortened their deficit to 10-14.
After Morgan County’s field goal, Gordon Central had two chances to produce points when Andrew Coach dropped the punt return for a fumble after the Warrior’s first attempt, but the second drive was ended with a fumble recovery by Stewart Spence for the Bulldogs.
Morgan County scored first in the fourth quarter with a three-yard touchdown run by Benton, giving the Bulldogs their first lead since the first quarter at 17-14.
On the third play of Gordon Central’s next drive, Grayson Segrest intercepted the ball for Morgan County on a deflected pass.
The Bulldogs’ 33-yard drive ended on a 16-yard carry by Melvin Davis into the endzone.
In less than three minutes, Morgan County had come from behind to secure a 10-point lead late in the game.
Not staying too far behind for long, Gordon Central scored on their next drive, closing the Bulldogs’ lead to three points and leaving a little less than five minutes to play.
At that point, Morgan County began to bide their time, intentionally incurring a delay of game penalty as well, before having to return the ball to Gordon Central with almost two minutes left on the board.
The Warriors’ drive began slowly, at their own 34-yard line; they faced a fourth-and-five situation with time down to a minute and a half and realized that they had to go for it.
They made it.
And, on the next play, they had a 45-yard run, placing them 15 yards from the endzone, but a holding call and a false start brought them back to the 30-yard line.
Their next play was a 28-yard pass, and, with less than a minute to play, they were 2 yards from going ahead of Morgan County.
With a first and goal, they got pushed back 2 yards to the 4-yard line.
Then it happened.
In their rush to get into the endzone, the ball slipped from their hands, and the Bulldogs were quick to pounce on the ball on the open field.
Secure with the ball and the lead, Morgan County took a knee on the last play of the game with only four seconds remaining.
Head Coach Bill Malone says that he was sure of victory in the last minutes, even as Gordon Central was knocking on the door.
“What I was expecting them to do, since they had no time outs left, was to pull their field goal unit out there and kick the field goad to send it into overtime, in which we would win – or they would miss the field goal.”
Come out to see the Bulldogs play in the second round of playoffs this Friday at North Hall High School in Gainesville. If the game against North Hall is half as good as the first playoff game, it will be well worth the time and effort.
Printed in the November 22, 2012 edition