The residents of Jesup, Ga., heard a loud scream Saturday night.
Lakeside's Chris Dreyton tries to dodge the Evans defense late in the first half of the Knights' 15-13 victory.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
That scream was a collective one by the Evans High School faithful, coming after Baldwin beat Wayne County, 33-0.
The Braves' victory gave Evans its first playoff berth since 2000.
"We have come a long way since 3-10 last season," said a teary-eyed Marty Jackson, Evans' head coach. "Some people would have thought we were crazy if we'd told them Evans would be a playoff team this season."
The Knights are now likely one win away from guaranteeing a playoff game will be played at Blanchard Stadium on Nov. 5.
Evans got its fourth region win after a 15-13 win over Lakeside on Friday night.
After the game, Evans running back Cheng Ho broke into tears when he thought about the Knights' recent struggles.
"We really became a family tonight," he said. "Our goal was to make the playoffs this season. We now have to play for second in the region to get a home playoff game."
The Evans (6-2) win ensures at least a fourth-place finish in Region 2-AAAA, with the Knights holding the tiebreaker with Effingham County and Greenbrier. The Knights' sixth win of the season matched their win total for the past three seasons combined.
Junior Coley looks for an opening in Lakeside's defense. The game Friday was Evans' fourth region win.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Jones County fell to Statesboro, placing Evans in second place in the region and in the driver's seat for home-field advantage in the region.
If Evans wins one of its two remaining games against Baldwin or Wayne County, the only team that could jump Evans for the No. 2 seed would be Baldwin.
The Braves would have to win out, though, for that to happen.
"We are where we want to be right now," Jackson said. "We are in control of our own destiny. We win out, we play at home in the playoffs."
The Knights, however, almost had to wait another week to get their fourth region win.
Evans needed a field goal by Reid Tankersley with 45 seconds to win.
"He's been so clutch for us this season," Evans quarterback Brad Freeman said. "We never feel worried when he heads out there."
Tankersley's game winner came on a drive that started on the Knights' own 16-yard line with 4:34 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Panthers (2-5-1) had a chance to stop Evans.
The Knights were fourth-and-10 from the Panthers' 47-yard line.
Freeman connected with Shawn Ward on an 18-yard gain.
Tankersley made the field goal four plays later.
Lakeside moved the ball to Evans' 35-yard line with three seconds left without quarterback Jimmy Johnson, who had to leave the game with a head injury after running for two touchdowns.
Phillip Shackleford couldn't connect, though, on a 51-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
"Good teams win the sloppy games," Freeman said. "I think we are a good team."
Evans has beaten Harlem, Greenbrier and Lakeside to hold the unofficial Columbia County championship.
"That was one of our goals this season," Freeman said. "Now we have to move on to bigger goals."
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