Patriots back in state quarterfinals with 29-7 win

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The current senior class at Sandy Creek High School was in elementary school the last time its football team lost in the first two rounds of the state playoffs.

The Patriots are in the quarterfinals for the seventh straight year after a rare second-round road game, winning 29-7 over Region 3-AAAA champion Wayne County in Jesup. The team will hit the road again next Friday to face Cartersville, the top team from Region 7-AAAA. Overcoming a slow start and a whopping 20-plus penalties, the Patriots (11-1) found their footing and dominated the second half, helped in a big way by a defense that shut down the Wayne County running game and put big hits on two different quarterbacks all night while picking off three passes.

The first quarter was filled with flags, and each team threw an interception on its opening possession. It wasn’t until 5:11 left in the second quarter that someone scored, and it was Wayne County that struck first on a 2-yard touchdown run.

But a good kickoff return put the Patriots in business at their own 41 and, after mostly keeping it on the ground with Eric Swinney, hit paydirt on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Trey Walker to Christian Branch with just over two minutes on the clock. The Patriots forced a punt and got one more shot in the first half, moving inside the Wayne County 25 on a couple of long Walker completions before stalling and missing a field goal a few seconds before halftime.

But Sandy Creek turned it up a notch in the second half and the momentum swing was huge, starting with a big fumble return. Swinney capped the Patriots’ first possession of the third quarter with a 4-yard run into the end zone to give the visiting team its first lead of the game at 13-7. The Yellow Jackets were shut down on the next possession and their fourth-down snap wound up in the end zone for a safety.

The next Wayne County possession ended abruptly when Javon Jackson picked off a pass and added a long return to the Yellow Jackets’ 30. A few plays later, Swinney scored again on an 8-yard run with 3:25 left in the third quarter.

Another interception early in the fourth quarter gave the Patriots the ball in Yellow Jacket territory and Drezyn Parson scored from 7 yards out with just over four minutes left. The ensuing possession’s first play was the final Sandy Creek interception, and the Patriots ran out the clock. If the Patriots win at Cartersville, their semifinal opponent would be the winner of the Marist-Buford game. The other AAAA quarterfinal games are Woodward vs. Cairo and St. Pius vs. West Laurens.

MT. PISGAH 38, LANDMARK 14: The War Eagles, seeded eighth in the 16-team field, came up short at home in their first-round state playoff effort and finished the season with a record of 8-3. Landmark fell behind 7-0 early in the first quarter, and Mt. Pisgah added a field goal early in the second followed by a long touchdown pass.

The War Eagles got on the scoreboard on Stockton McGuire’s 8-yard quarterback keeper to cut the lead to 17-7, and that was the halftime score. Lofton Tidwell scored on a short run in the third quarter to make it a three-point game, but Mt. Pisgah answered with a touchdown early in the fourth and got another score after a Landmark fumble. Mt. Pisgah, the ninth seed, will travel to Savannah next week to face top-seeded Calvary Day School. Other matchups in the A Private classification’s quarterfinal round include ELCA at Prince Avenue Christian, Tattnall Square at Aquinas, and Savannah Christian at Mt. Paran Christian.