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Heritage comes up short
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Heritage's Myles Kiett holds up the football after recovering one of Ware County's three fumbles in the first quarter of Friday night's second round playoff game. - photo by William Brawley

Heritage's historic run came to an end Friday night at the hands of the Ware County Gators.

The Patriots' drive through the 2011 playoffs came to the same conclusion as many of their drives on the field - just short of the goal line in a 24-3 loss.

The game started out in favor of the home team with Heritage causing three fumbles in the opening minute. On the game's first kickoff, Ware County fumbled the ball on the return with Heritage's Obe Fortune coming up with it.
The Patriots would turn the Gators' miscue into three points on Harisson Kulp's 33 yard field goal 2:10 into the game.

Ware County continued to be plagued by turnovers, fumbling on the Patriots' 36 into the hands of Tyler Weaver on the Gators' next offensive drive. After Heritage went three-and-out, Ware County fumbled once more; this time it was recovered by Miles Kiett on the Heritage 8-yard line.

"The defense all season has been opportunistic, setting up the offense," Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. "And they did it again. Offensively we just couldn't get much going."

Heritage once again came up short, unable to turn good field position into points.

"That's frustrating," Frazier said. "You've got to capitalize on those opportunities, and we were not able to do that."

The Patriots weren't able to do much on offense, getting into Ware County territory just twice after their initial drive.

Heritage had only seven first downs, compared to Ware County's 15, and tallied only 152 yards of offense. The Patriots managed just 39 yards rushing - none in the second half - on 28 carries, thanks to a very strong Gators' defensive line.

The Patriots' offensive line tried to match up with Ware County's speed and size, but no amount of technique and effort could match them.

"We just wanted to play low," Frazier said. "They were bigger than us, so we tried to stay low and use great technique. We had great effort, they were just better than us."

When Heritage tried to run the ball to the outside, Ware County's safeties stepped up. When the Patriots went up the middle, the linebackers were there to meet them.

"Offensively we just couldn't get much going," Frazier said.

Ware County could get it going on offense as it took the lead for good on Xavier Tobler's 1-yard run with 9:02 to play in the second quarter. The Gators added a 5-ayrd TD run by Josh Bennett, a 1-yard TD by Tobler and a 47-yard field goal by Seth Starling in the second half.

Despite the loss, Frazier was still excited about the Patriots season, winning nine games in the regular season for the first time, securing the No. 1 seed for the first time and claiming a region championship for the first time.

"It's a new standard," Frazier said. "I'm so excited and proud of the kids and the effort and commitment to the program they showed. Hopefully these guys are getting a taste of what a run deep into the off-season may feel like."