While Evans High School head football coach Marty Jackson said specific plays didn’t cost his team the game, turnovers proved to be costly when the Knights faced Warner Robins Friday night.
Two fumbles, one right before halftime and the other on a punt after the Knights had kept the No. 7 team in Class AAAAA pinned inside their own 5-yard-line, led to 14 points and the Demons (4-0, 1-0 Region 2-AAAAA) spoiled homecoming, winning 27-14 win.
The late-third quarter muffed punt came just four plays after the Demons stuffed Tyler Spence from inside the 1 after the Knights had first-and-goal from the 1.
“The goal-line stand was big, but then we had great field position, we just field that punt, we’re good,” Jackson said, adding that he didn’t think it cost his team the game. “There’s what, 180 p1ays in that game and that’s just one of them.”
The sequence of events almost didn’t unfold as it appeared Matlin Marshall was going to score on a quarterback draw from the Demons’ 14, but he was pushed out-of-bounds at the 1 at the last second.
The Knights (2-2, 0-1) had a goal-line stand of their own to start the game as the Demons took the opening kickoff and drove to the Knights’ 9. The Knights held, with Sean Vandiver intercepting a pass in the end zone on second-and goal.
While the Demons rushed for 234 yards, the Knights did a good job throughout the game of keeping the Demons’ offense in check.
Keeping the Demons off balance with a mix of runs and passes, the Knights drew first blood, using a 13-play drive to cover 64 yards and score on a Spence nine-yard rumble up the middle.
Still leading 7-0, the Knights drove to midfield with just under five minutes left in the half. They converted a third-and-13 when Marshall scrambled for 14 yards. Marshall coughed up the ball on the Kinghts’ 44 on the ensuing play, however, and the Demons turned that into a tying seven-yard touchdown pass with :37 seconds left in the half.
The Knights were held to just 99 yards rushing, but Marshall was effective through the air, completing 16 of 28 passes to six different receivers for 193 yards.
“The defense played really stiff and the offense, we were really close to getting there,” Jackson said.
Following the Demons goal-line stand, the Knights defense held, but the punt was muffed at midfield with the Demons recovering. On their second play from scrimmage, Danny Hite, Jr., who led all rushers with 130 yards on 16 carries, ripped off a 42-yard run to the Knights’ 6. Three plays later, quarterback Caden Johnston went in from five yards out to make it 17-7 with 11:45 to play.
Still down 10 and time running out, the Knights went for it on fourth-and-one from their own 29, but Marshall was flushed from the pocket and his pass was incomplete.
“We went for it late, but I believed we were going to get it,” said Jackson. “We went for it more than once tonight on fourth down tonight and got them.”
Three plays later Hite, Jr. punched it in as the Demons went up 24-7, but the Knights weren’t done.
A Marshall to K’Lon Lovett 30-yard connection got the ball deep in Demons territory and Marshall scrambled for a six-yard score with 2:02 left in the game, cutting the lead to 24-14.
They couldn’t recover the onsides kick, however, and that would be it.
Jackson liked what he saw from his team.
“Our guys ain’t going to quit,” he said. “They’re going to leave everything they have out on the field, I’m proud of them.”
Not much went right for county teams Friday night as two undefeateds took their first loss, as five out of six lost.
Augusta Christian (2-3) was the lone winner as they defeated Pinewood Prep on the road, 21-6. Harlem (4-1) got beat by Screven County at home, 35-13, while Augusta Prep (4-1) lost on the road to Westminster (Augusta) 13-7. In other Region 2-AAAAA contests, Houston County beat Grovetown (1-3) 52-19 while Greenbrier (0-4) was blanked 48-0 by Jones County.