On a night where both teams had double-digit leads at one point or another, it was an onside kick that made the difference in a comeback thriller.
The Habersham Central Raiders (2-1,2-1 8-AAAA) defeated the Salem Seminoles (1-2, 1-2 8-AAAA) by a score of 43-39. The Raiders erased an 11-point deficit in the final 2:41 of the game.
The comeback was officially complete when Raiders senior quarterback Kevin Ellison threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Zac Franks. The drive was made possible by an onside kick recovery with 2:39 left in the fourth quarter, plus it came with a 5-yard offside penalty to move the kick back another 5-yards.
“My 135-pound wrestler got in there and hand fought,” Raiders Head Coach Stuart Cunningham said. “It’s just want to. I’d like to say we coached it that way.
The Raiders scored first to start the game. On the fifth play from scrimmage, Ellison found Franks on a 5-yard pass for a touchdown to give the Raiders a 7-0 lead just 2 minutes into the game. This was the first of two touchdowns to Franks.
On the Seminoles opening drive, Raiders senior defensive back Devin Welborn intercepted a Damion Gordon pass, returning it 45-yards to give the Raiders a short field, in which Kevin Ellison ran in from 1-yard out to give the Raiders a 14-0 lead with 2:00 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter was quite different from the first.
Seminoles senior running back Jahaad Coleman gave the Seminoles a spark when he scored on a 22-yard run, cutting the Raider lead to 14-7. The Raiders answered with two back-to-back touchdowns of their own.
The first came when senior full back Patrick Burns scored from 15-yards out and the next when Ellison ran in his second touchdown of the night from 6-yards out. The lead was 28-7.
The Seminoles would respond, scoring 2 touchdowns within 1 minute of each other. Coleman would run his second touchdown of the night in from 37-yards. After the ensuing kickoff, the Seminoles recovered a Raiders fumble.
Seminoles quarterback Damion Gordon scored from 1-yard away with :31.7 left in the half. The Raiders lead which once was 28-7, now was 28-21 as the teams headed in for halftime.
The Seminoles started the third quarter off with a bang, as Coleman scored his third touchdown of the game on the opening kickoff 95-yards for a touchdown. The Seminoles would elect to go for a 2-point conversion. They succeeded grabbing their first lead of the night. It didn’t stop there; Coleman would score his fourth and final touchdown of the game. The lead was 36-28.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Seminoles senior kicker Daniel Whitson, booted in a 31-yard field goal to give them a 39-28. Ellison would bring the Raiders back with a 4-yard touchdown run, and a 2-point conversion to Franks. The lead was 39-36. Then the onside kick took place, and Ellison lead the Raiders down the field and found Franks with :32.8 seconds left in the game. The score was 43-39. Gordon tried to rally the Seminoles, but it was to little to late.