A season filled with promise ended on a sad note last week at Pride Valley.
The Augusta Christian Schools football team lost its first-round Class AAA state playoff game to Deerfield-Windsor, and the 19-9 defeat Friday night was a mix of miserable luck and bad timing.
Augusta Christian played well enough to win. In fact, AC outscored the Knights when the game clock was running.
But the Knights notched touchdowns to close each half, and both scores came with no time on the clock.
The biggest turn of events came late in the first half. With Deerfield holding a 7-3 lead, Augusta Christian's offense went for a first down on fourth and inches.
AC quarterback Adam McKinney attempted a sneak, but he lost his footing and didn't pick up the first down.
The Knights took over and moved to the Lions 45, and with AC expecting a pass attempt, quarterback Grant Walker burst up the middle for a touchdown as the half ended.
"They made a good call and they executed. That's why they're the defending state champions," AC coach Bruce Lane said.
Augusta Christian wasn't expecting to see the reigning Georgia Independent School Association champions in the first round.
The Knights needed to beat Southland Academy in the regular-season finale to nail down a Region 3-AAA title, but Southland pulled out a win, which forced a three-way region playoff for state seedings.
When the dust settled, Deerfield was bumped to a No. 3 seed, giving Augusta Christian a very angry foe.
"Deerfield was three minutes away from being region champions and playing at home (to open the state playoffs)," Lane said. "All the events that transpired brought them our way."
The Lions shrugged off the 13-3 halftime deficit and stuffed the Knights for minus-3 yards on offense in the third quarter.
McKinney put AC in scoring position with a weaving 51-yard run, and Drew Snelling punched it in for a fourth-quarter touchdown to trim the deficit to 13-9.
The momentum seemed to turn in AC's favor when Dwight Banks picked off a pass and raced to the Deerfield 25, but the Lions committed a fumble to squander that opportunity.
Late in the fourth, Deerfield recorded crucial first downs to take time off the clock; when the Lions finally got the ball back, there was only 17.9 seconds left to play - and 98 yards to go for a touchdown.
Augusta Christian's final play of the season was a McKinney screen pass, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown with no time on the clock.
The Lions were stuck with an 8-3 record, and the thoughts of what might have been.
"I really felt like we outplayed them," AC senior Sam Pitts said. "We were driving on them, but we'd get to the red zone and do something wrong. We'd hold them on defense, and they'd have a big play. Everything went wrong at the wrong time."
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