Late field goal lifts GAC over Fitzgerald

by Chris Beckham
Special to SGSN

FITZGERALD – Senior kicker Will Kenworthy lifted a 22-yard field goal on the final play of the game to send the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans to the Class AA state title game in a wild 44-41 win over Fitzgerald at Jaycee Stadium Friday night.

Trey Graham (20) runs after a catch for a 68-yard score. Photo:Eddie Senkbeil/SGSN

Trey Graham (20) runs after a catch for a 68-yard score. Photo: Eddie Senkbeil/SGSN

Kenworthy’s kick finished a dramatic fourth quarter which saw GAC with a seemingly insurmountable lead just a few minutes earlier. GAC quarterback Davis Mills scored on an 11-yard keeper to put the Spartans up 41-27 with 4:55 left to play. Fitzgerald, who made its living on a ground-oriented Wing-T attack all year, was forced to go to the air to make up ground and the offense responded as quarterback Gerald Morgan lofted a beautiful 32-yard pass down the right sideline to Ryan Fletcher to bring the game within reach with 3:16 left.

But to have a chance, Jason Strickland’s Purple Hurricane defense would have to find a way to slow down Micah Abernathy, GAC’s standout running back who torched the home team time after time to the tune of 260 yards on the night. But Fitzgerald managed to do just that, stopping GAC on a 4th and 1 to get the ball back with 1:51 left to play.

Again, Fitzgerald found success through the air and quickly. On the first play after taking over on downs, Morgan hit running back Trey Graham down the right sideline just past a diving defender and the senior outran the stunned defense for a 68-yard score. Yoshi Arcadia’s extra point was good to tie the game at 41-41 with 1:41 left.

Taeylon Gaulden runs for a score to end the third period, scampering for a 27-26. Photo: Eddie Senkbeil/SGSN

Taeylon Gaulden runs for a score to end the third period, scampering for a 27-26. Photo: Eddie Senkbeil/SGSN

That proved enough time for the Spartans to move downfield, with a lot of help from the Canes. A facemask penalty on the kickoff return started GAC at its own 46 and a personal foul after a huge hit by Morgan added 15 more yards to the drive. The Hurricanes eventually pushed GAC back to a 3rd and 17 but a pass interference penalty aided the drive. After Abernathy gained his final 10 yards of the night, Mills found the reliable Justin Phan over the middle for a nine-yard gain to the Fitzgerald 3 and GAC called its final timeout with four seconds left to set Kenworthy up with the game-winner.

Fitzgerald led 21-14 at halftime but elusive Abernathy took care of that quickly on the first play of the second half as he lined up at quarterback, took the snap and raced 75 yards for a score down the right sideline. Incredibly, that was the only offensive play the Spartans ran in the third quarter. The Purple Hurricanes put together a 15-play drive deep inside GAC territory but a huge hit forced Morgan to fumble and the ball went straight into the hands of linebacker Paul Carothers, who raced 88 yards for a tide-turning touchdown. The two-point pass failed and GAC led 26-21.

Fitzgerald responded with another 15-play drive that was capped by Taeylon Gaulden’s 1-yard touchdown on the final play of the period for a 27-26 lead that set up the dramatic final period. Abernathy had two touchdowns and GAC also scored on a 16-yard pass from Mills to Carothers and a 65-yard reverse run by All-State wide receiver Darius Slayton. Graham, Morgan and Gaulden added first-half touchdowns for Fitzgerald.

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