Heritage dominated from wire to wire in a 47-21 win over visiting Apalachee Friday, giving the Patriots back-to-back wins heading into the playoffs in two weeks.
The Patriots’ (6-4) offensive explosion – the previous season high was 23 points – was led by senior quarterback Ryan Sutton, who went 12-15 for 160 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone and a running back committee that tallied 223 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries.
The Patriots defense gave up 260 yards, including 223 on the ground, but started the game strong as linebacker Daniel Foster forced a fumble on Apalachee’s (0-9) first possession, giving the Patriots’ offense the ball at Apalachee’s 37-yard-line. Sutton connected with senior running back Kevin Simpson for a 25-yard gain before hitting wide receiver Obe Fortune for a 10-yard touchdown pass.
“We played really well all over, and I was just very proud of the way we played. Our seniors, it’s a very special night for them,” said coach Mike Parris. “Of course, we’re in the playoffs, but it’s a very special night for them being in their last home game.”
The Patriots’ defense would force Apalachee to go three and out after losing 4 yards on the ground, and a shanked 2-yard punt by Apalachee put Heritage in the red zone at the 18-yard line to begin its possession. On the first play, running back C.J. Stone ran up the middle for a touchdown, putting Heritage up 13-0; the Patriots failed to convert a two-point conversion.
Apalachee would come back with an 82-yard drive capped off by a 10-yard run by running back Jody Mathis, who scored all three Wildcats touchdowns and led the team with 141 yards on 11 carries.
Heritage answered right back, marching 86 yards in 7 minutes and 9 seconds and capping the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Sutton to senior tight end Emanuel Smith.
A quick three and out gave the Patriots the ball again at Apalachee’s 40-yard line. A couple of penalties – Heritage had nine in the first half – pushed Heritage back 20 yards, but a 35-yard catch by Fortune, 7-yard run by Sutton and 18-yard TD catch by receiver Greg Craddock put Heritage up 27-7.
The Patriots scored touchdowns on their first four drives and scored points on each of their first seven drives.
Parris said the game plan was to get the ball into his receivers’ hands in the flats and on shorter routes and let “our guys be athletes after they caught it. That was the biggest thing.
Even kicker Austin Kulp got in on the action making a 43-yard and 44-yard field goal to end the first half.
Heritage finishes the season with 6 wins and has a bye week before heading into the first round of the playoffs, where they’re expected to play at Region 6-AAAAA No. 1 seed Tucker.
“We didn’t play the greatest defensive game, but the good thing about it is those guys will be ready to go back to work. We didn’t have anybody hurt; that’s a big plus for us. We have two weeks to get ready,” Parris said.