Safety first Last-sec­ond re­verse run ends Her­itage’s streak to Ring­gold

Walker County Messenger - - Sports - By Scott Herpst

If you look back at the an­nals of high school foot­ball history, you would be hard­pressed to find many run­ning plays that re­sulted in neg­a­tive-45 yards.

But Her­itage High School now has one of those plays to its credit, and it will go down as one of the best and most mem­o­rable mo­ments in the history of Gen­er­als’ foot­ball.

Fac­ing fourth down from its own 45-yard line with 12 sec­onds to play and des­per­ately try­ing to hang on to a 13-9 lead against ri­val Ring­gold, head coach E.K. Slaugh­ter needed a play to run out the clock with­out giv­ing the Tigers a fi­nal chance to win the game.

He sent out the punt team, but in­stead of boot­ing the ball away, punter Jef­fery Cur­tis spun 180 de­grees and be­gan to run to­ward his own end­zone, keep­ing one eye on pur­su­ing Ring­gold de­fend­ers and the other fixed on the score­board clock sit­ting on a hill to his right.

The Tigers gave chase, but couldn’t catch up to Cur­tis, who took all 12 sec­onds off the clock be­fore cross­ing his own goal line and run­ning out of the end­zone for what is, by rule, a safety.

A few sec­onds af­ter the fi­nal horn had died out, the rest of Cur­tis’ team­mates and the en­tire Her­itage stu­dent sec­tion fi­nally caught up with him, set­ting off a party in the end­zone to cel­e­brate the Gen­er­als’ 13-11 vic­tory on Jeff Sims Field.

It was the sec­ond win in two tries this sea­son for the Navy-and-Red, but more im­por­tantly for Her­itage and their fans, it was the Gen­er­als’ first vic­tory in 10 tries all-time against their cross-town ri­vals.

“We knew all week that it was go­ing to hap­pen,” said se­nior line­backer Hank Wel­don, who had two of the Gen­er­als’ five sacks on the night. “We prac­ticed hard and we came out know­ing that we were go­ing to win. Our de­fense played shut down. Our of­fense got off to a rough start, but they came out in the sec­ond half and just did what they are sup­posed to do.”

“Ev­ery­one has wanted this the last nine years,” Slaugh­ter added. “It’s been tough, but th­ese kids have been through it and they de­serve this. I’m su­per-happy for all of them and for all of the coaches that are here and for all the coaches who were here the last eight or nine years. For this whole com­mu­nity, it’s just awe­some.”

In what turned out to be a de­fen­sive bat­tle all night long, a 31-yard field goal by Ring­gold kicker Gar­rett Davis on the ini­tial drive of the game was all the of­fense that ei­ther team could muster un­til late in the third quar­ter.

Her­itage, who had four passes picked off

in the open­ing half, in­clud­ing three by Tigers’ safety Blake Gold­smith, would fi­nally get on the board with 1:41 left in the pe­riod. Quar­ter­back Blake Bryan con­nected with Ryan Carter for a 19-yard TD pass on a fourth-and-one play to cap a short 28-yard drive.

The two de­fenses con­tin­ued to slug it out in the fourth be­fore the Gen­er­als’ fi­nally put a sus­tained drive to­gether. They marched 80 yards in nine plays, aided by two very costly 15-yard per­sonal foul penal­ties on Ring­gold, be­fore Cur­tis went off right tackle for a 7-yard score with 3:15 to play in the game. A missed ex­tra point kept the Her­itage lead at 10 points.

Need­ing a quick score, the Tigers got one as Cole Ki­bler hit four dif­fer­ent re­ceivers to cover 79 yards. The fi­nal 35 came on an out­stand­ing leap­ing catch by An­dre Tarver that re­sulted in a touch­down with 1:20 to play, although a missed ex­tra point kept the Her­itage lead at four.

An onside kick at­tempt, how­ever, went out of bounds and the Gen­er­als were able to col­lect a first down on a 13-yard run by Cur­tis be­fore his mi­nus-45 yard run sealed the deal.

Her­itage fin­ished with 303 yards of to­tal of­fense, in­clud­ing 118 on the ground. Bryan had 70 yards on 11 car­ries and Cur­tis had 87 yards on 14 car­ries be­fore his fi­nal statis­tic-sac­ri­fic­ing run. Bryan was 10-of-20 in the air for 172 yards with three picks, while Luke Grant led the way with 84 yards on three catches.

“Cur­tis was just a force tonight and there was never a time when Blake was down that some­one wasn’t pick­ing him up,” Slaugh­ter said. “He had some rough mo­ments, but he fought through it and made some big plays for us. On our last drive, he was play­ing his guts out. He lit­er­ally threw up three times, but he stayed in the game and fin­ished it. I can’t say enough about that kid. He’s go­ing to be great.”

Grant and Carter had in­ter­cep­tions for Her­itage, while the Gen­er­als’ five sacks of Ki­bler re­sulted in a net-loss of 34 yards. The Ring­gold sig­nal­caller, who threw for over 450 yards a week ago in a loss to North­west Whitfield, man­aged just 235 on Fri­day, com­plet­ing 17of-36 at­tempts.

Ty Jones ran 16 times for 47 tough yards, but as a team, Ring­gold had 24 to­tal car­ries for a net of 21 yards. Dy­lan Wright had seven catches for 79 yards, while Tarver

had four for 76 yards. Noah Keaton also had a pick for the Tigers on de­fense.

“It’s not that I don’t be­lieve in our de­fense, I do,” Slaugh­ter said. “But I re­ally didn’t think we’d hold those guys to just one score in the end­zone. They’ve got a quar­ter­back who’s le­git and some re­ally good guys over there to go with some of the best coaches in the area. But our de­fense played their tails off. They just never quit.”

Ring­gold head coach Robert Akins cred­ited Her­itage’s blitz pack­age with keep­ing his of­fense from es­tab­lish­ing a rhythm.

“They put a lot of pres­sure on us,” he said. “We knew they were go­ing to blitz be­cause that’s what they do, but we still didn’t han­dle it very well.

“We just didn’t play well enough to win. We made the same type of mis­takes that we made the first game. We had some stupid penal­ties, like block­ing in the back and per­sonal fouls. That’s a ma­jor prob­lem with us right now and un­less we get that fixed, we’re not go­ing to win many foot­ball games.”

Both teams will be back at home this Fri­day in non-re­gion games. Her­itage (20) will host Coahulla Creek, while Ring­gold (0-2) will take on Fan­nin County at Don Pat­ter­son Field.

“I re­ally didn’t think we’d hold those guys to just one score in the end­zone. They’ve got a quar­ter­back who’s le­git and some re­ally good guys over there to go with some of the best coaches in the area. But our de­fense played their tails off. They just...

Her­itage High School se­nior right-handed pitcher Cole Wil­cox was one of five Ge­or­gia play­ers se­lected to the 20man 18U Na­tional Team by USA Base­ball in Min­nesota last week. The squad will play in Canada, start­ing this Fri­day, in the WBSC World Cup...

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