For the second straight year, the cross-metro duel between Sandy Creek and Allatoona came down to the final minute.
Though it wasn’t pretty, for the second straight year, Sandy Creek prevailed, getting 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns from running back Jordan Clark while holding the Buccaneers (1-2) to 159 total yards.
The Patriots (2-0), ranked No. 4 in Class AAAA, stymied the Class AAAAAA school from Cobb County all night, but still had to field an on-side kick to seal the win.
Sandy Creek’s defensive front owned the line of scrimmage, recording tackles for negative yardage and holding Allatoona to 120 rushing yards, 63 coming on one play.
“We were pressing our gaps, and they couldn’t run up the middle,” said Sandy Creek defensive tackle Taylor Hodge. “So they had to go outside, and when our corners started pressing, they didn’t have anywhere to run the ball. We worked on it all week in practice, getting after the quarterback.”
Neither team had much success sustaining drives in the first half. For Allatoona, it was because the Sandy Creek defensive front controlled the line of scrimmage and left precious little room to run.
“Their defensive front is very good and our kids had a lot of difficulty, especially early in the game,” said Allatoona coach Gary Varner. “It took us a long time before we could start running the ball, and when we did, it became a football game.”
For Sandy Creek, it was penalties. The Patriots were flagged eight times for 45 yards in losses in the first half. They finished the night with 16 penalties for 110 yards.
“It’s exciting for the fans,” said Sandy Creek coach Brett Garvin. “It’s a keep you on the edge of your seat kind of game. Every time we’d get something rolling we’d get a penalty.”
The Patriots were flagged for a false start before they could make the game’s first snap, but quarterback Matthew Williams and receiver Judah Johnson covered that mistake, connecting for an 85-yard touchdown pass on the first snap. Johnson caught the ball in stride at the Sandy Creek 40 and the Allatoona defender fell down, leaving Johnson free to sprint the rest of the way for a 7-0 lead just 16 seconds into the game. But the first half, we had no answer.”
An Allatoona turnover led to the Patriots’ second score. Quarterback Dante’ Marshall fumbled a snap on the Buccaneers’ third snap, and Sandy Creek fell on the ball at the Allatoona 33. Eight plays later, Sandy Creek’s Jordan Clark scored on a 2-yard run for a 14-0 lead.
Allatoona cut the lead in half after a 49-yard punt return by Payton Eeles gave the Bucs the ball at the Sandy Creek 13. Daniel Parsons sprinted off right tackle and scored on the next play to cut the Sandy Creek lead in half.
The Patriots pushed it to 21-7 on Clark’s second touchdown, a 4-yarder that he set up with a 73-yard run early in the third period.
“You’ve just got to keep going through it.” said Clark. “It’s a team game.”
Boyd, who finished with 87 yards on 12 carries, made it 21-14 with his long touchdown run early in the fourth.
Sandy Creek was awarded a safety after Marshall was flagged for intentional grounding in the end zone.
Down nine in the waning minutes, Allatoona recovered a Sandy Creek fumble at the Patriots’ 7-yard line. The Buccaneers tried one pass to the back corner of the end zone, then called on Skyler Davis to kick a 24-yard field goal on second down. Sandy Creek fielded the ensuing on-side kick cleanly to seal the win.
“I don’t think that even with that last series down there that our kids went out there thinking ‘oh no we’re going to lose,’” Garvin said. “They were thinking, if we go out there and fight, we can turn this thing around. That’s the thing I’m proudest of.”
Allatoona 0 7 0 10 – 17
Sandy Creek 14 0 7 2 – 23
SC – Matthew Williams 85 pass to Judah Johnson (David Gonzales kick)
SC – Jordan Clark 2 run (Gonzales kick)
A – Daniel Parsons 13 4un (Skyler Davis kick)
SC – Clark 4 run (Gonzales kick)
A – Adrian Boyd 63 run (Davis kick)
SC – Safety (Allatoona penalized for intentional grounding in end zone)
A – FG Davis 24