Bacon County secured a Class AA state playoff berth thanks to “The Catch” by Greg Wright in a 7-0 overtime win over Toombs County last Monday night.
The Red Raiders, who had the ball for just nine plays, survived in the three-team mini-playoff format at Long County High School to clinch the final state playoff bid.
“We lost the coin toss to see who would play in the first game,” said head coach Bobby Johns, “then we lost the coin toss to start our game. In overtime we lost the coin toss so something had to change.”
Tied 0-0 after the two five-minute “halves,” Bacon County scored the only touchdown when Greg Wright went up high to pull in a Matt Thrift pass on a third-and-five play.
Toombs County (7-3) won the toss for the first overtime period and elected to play defense with the ball being placed at the 15.
After the Red Raiders (6-4) lost 10 yards on the first snap, Thrift bootlegged left and hit Dejuan Merritt underneath the Toombs’ secondary for a 15-yard gain.
On the next snap, and with the Benedictine team cheering on the Red Raiders, Thrift lofted a pass towards the back corner of the end zone with Wright going high over the defender for the catch. Wiley added the PAT for a 7-0 lead.
“That was a great play,” Johns said of the leaping catch. “Matt made the right read, but the throw was a little late. They (Bulldogs) got pressure on him and the pick on the play was a little late as well.
“This was the first time we’ve been lucky all year.”
The victory by Bacon County gave the Red Raiders the fourth seed in Region 2-AA and a date with Region 3 champion Screven County.
Benedictine (7-3) was also the beneficiary of Bacon County’s win. BC, which beat Toombs County 6-0 in the first mini-contest with a second quarter touchdown, had to wait for the final outcome for its seeding.
The Cadets lost a 14-12 decision against the Bulldogs during the regular season and would have had a fourth-place finish with a Toombs’ win.
Toombs County dominated the matchup with the Red Raiders running 16 offensive plays to Bacon’s six. The Bulldogs held the ball the entire five minutes of the first period and outgained Bacon County 72-14 in total yards for the contest.
Moving from its own 37, Toombs County advanced the ball to the Red Raiders’ five with :12.6 remaining in the period with 12 snaps of the ball. A first-and-goal slant pass was intercepted by Bacon’s T.J. Wiley at the goal line on the last play of the half.
“We (coaches) knew they were going to run a slant,” said Johns. “If they had run anything else it would have been a touchdown.”
Bacon County had disaster strike on its first offensive snap of the second period. Senior offensive lineman Jay Jackson dislocated his ankle leading fullback Dejuan Merritt upfield.
The game came to a stand still with a nearly 10-minute delay while Jackson was attended to by medical personnel from all three schools.
When play resumed, the Red Raiders went backwards as Toombs County came with a run blitz on the next two plays. The two teams would exchange punts before the period ended.
“We’ve just got to have somebody else step up,” said Johns of the injury. “We didn’t come back on the field to play the way I wanted. We came out flat.
“But the thing is they (Bulldogs) just whipped our tail. They completely stuffed us.”
Following the touchdown, a fired up Bacon County defensive unit threw the Bulldogs for a four-yard loss on the first play and got a quarterback sack by 360-pound Khyree Jenkins on second down.
Toombs County was flagged for offensive pass interference on third down backing the ball out to the 38. A third-and-33 pass was intercepted by Drell Green setting off a wild celebration.
“We told the guys that they (Bulldogs) were going to run either a toss sweep or bootleg pass on the first play,” said Johns. “They had killed us with those two plays and we finally came up and made a stop. The pass interference was big because you usually don’t get anything called.
“The key, though, to these types of games is turnovers and we got two big ones.”