Norcross had moved inside the range of the powerful boot of highly-touted kicker Jake Camarda in the waning seconds of its matchup against Colquitt County Saturday in the Corky Kell Classic at Georgia State Stadium.
Out of timeouts, a last ditch effort to get out of bounds and stop the clock on the play before failed, despite the protests of Blue Devils coach Keith Maloof, and Norcross rushed to get set and give one of the nation’s best kicking prospects a chance at a makeable 55-yard try to force overtime.
Instead, the Blue Devils were forced to hurry to get set at the right hashmark, where officials spotted the ball, and then again at the left when officials reset the spot. The seconds ticked away, and Camarda’s attempt came after the clock hit zero, leaving Norcross scratching its head as Colquitt County players celebrated a 20-17 victory.
For what it was worth, Camarda’s kick was true, splitting the uprights. But it was all for naught.
The field-goal-that-wasn’t capped a feverish fourth quarter in which Norcross, after trailing 13-0 at halftime, scored 17 straight points to take its first lead with 8:31 remaining in the game.
A 53-yard fumble return by Blue Devils senior defensive end Dareus Barnhill gave Class AAAAAAA No. 7 a 17-13 lead, despite the offense managing just 62 total yards up to that point.
Instead of folding, though, the Packers responded with a nine-play, 80-yard drive to jump back in front by a field goal with 5:38 remaining in the game. Running back Ty Leggett finished the drive with a 34-yard score, taking the handoff up the middle, eluding one potential tackler and breaking free to the right for the score.
“I had the right guard pulling, I shuffled, got behind the right guard, (then I made a) jump cut,” Leggett said. “I saw the defender, so I just went inside and just got out there.”
“I’m proud of the team for the way they responded,” Packers coach Rush Propst said. “That was a big run for Ty, and Nigel Hillie had a couple of big runs. All of our guys were pretty fresh in the fourth.”
Leggett finished with 13 carries for 77 yards to go with his score.
On Norcross’s ensuing drive, it moved methodically from its own 20, converting on three third downs to keep its chances alive. Packers defensive lineman Brian Merritt came up with a big play, however, sacking quarterback Louis Williams inside of a minute remaining and forcing the Blue Devils back out of field goal range.
Precious seconds leaked away, and Norcross couldn’t recover in time to tie the game.
“I just told myself, ‘I’ve got to get this play,'” Merritt said. “‘We’ve got to win this game.’ I dug deep, and just sacked him. This was a big win for us.”
“He’s a huge player,” Propst said of Merritt. “That was a great sack. Their kicker is the best in the country for a reason. That was huge.”
Merritt finished the game with 2.5 sacks.
The win was big for the Packers, Propst said, preparing them for a gauntlet of challenging impending contests.
“We don’t have any breaks this year,” Propst said. “From Aug. 1 until today, it’s been a blur. We worked hard, and our kids were ready to play. It took a lot of effort, and we’ve got a quick turnaround next week.”
The Packers play Vista Murrieta (Calif.) next week.
Colquitt County jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first half, converting a 32-yard field goal on its opening drive, a 1-yard touchdown run by Cam Singletary on its second, and a 22-yard field goal on its third.
Norcross got on the board with 7:33 left in the third quarter with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Louis Williams to Rekevian Mathis. It added a 52-yard field goal from Camarda with 4:05 left in the third, and took the lead on the fumble return in the fourth.
After time expired in the fourth quarter, a disagreement between Norcross coach Keith Maloof and Propst resulted in a handful of shoves between members of both teams. Both teams left the field without further incident.