The Peachtree Academy Panthers lost their opportunity to play for a state championship Friday night, as they lost 34-21 to Colonial Hills in the semifinals of the Georgia Independent Christian Athletic Association Eight-Man playoffs.
Adding to the heartbreak was the fact that Peachtree Academy were defeated on its own home field.
From the start, it looked like Colonial Hills was set for complete domination of the Panthers, when the Rams’ Christopher Shelton carried the ball to the Panthers’ 2-yard line after a long opening drive, but Peachtree’s Patrick Cartledge forced a fumble that was recovered in the end zone, resulting in a Panther touchback.
After receiving the ball, the Panthers were able to capitalize on its first offensive possession of the night with a touchdown. But the Rams countered with a quick response — though missing an extra point — which helped Peachtree Academy keep a 7-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Panthers extended their lead to 21-6, thanks to a pair of touchdowns from tailback Hunter Payne, whose been a workhorse for Peachtree Academy all season. Payne finished the game with 55 rushing yards on 18 carries, and also caught two passes for 30 yards.
The defenses held serve through most of the quarter, but after the back-and-fourth, the Rams would tack on another touchdown, this time making good on the extra point. It chopped Peachtree’s lead to a 21-13 advantage that the Panthers would take into halftime.
In the third quarter, the Rams got back to business much like they did in their first drive of the game, except this time they managed not to turn the ball over, and Dairon Lewis scampered in for a score. Colonial Hills failed on a two-point conversion, but the touchdown whittled Peachtree’s lead to 21-19.
The Rams’ defense stiffened and got them the ball back after a punt, and the offense went to work again, this time with Colton Fain doing the damage on a touchdown run. The score — and another unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt — gave Colonial Hills a 26-21.
Peachtree was held scoreless the rest of the way, while Fain punched in another score for the Rams in the game’s waning moments, along with an extra point to provide the final margin.
Despite coming up on the losing end, the Panthers received valiantly impressive performances from several of its season long leaders, including Josh Coursey who finished with a team-high 21 tackles.
With this loss Peachtree Academy finished a strong season with an 8-4 mark. Colonial Hills will go on next Friday to play the winner of the Kings Way Christian-Praise Academy game which will decide the GICAA Eight-Man state title.