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Briggs: What a crazy night
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Friday night was supposed to be a historic night for Newton County football. It was historic all right. History all three programs would like to erase from our memory banks.

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. At one point, we were going to have three playoff teams. As the night wore on, things changed rapidly.

Here’s the jest of it. Newton won but lost, Eastside beat itself and Alcovy was supposed to play in its region championship game but a Northgate offensive clinic broke out instead.

Eastside needed a win at Henry County to make the playoffs but came away with a 34-24 loss instead. In Newnan, Alcovy scored first in the Region 3-AAAA title game against Northgate before the Vikings reeled off 35 straight to effectively seal the game at halftime. Northgate won 42-13. And at home, the Rams needed to win and get some help to make it in. Well they won — in four overtime periods, but got none of the help they needed and will be planning for next year not next week when everyone debriefs Monday.

Of course it was a thrilling night for me. I was following as much of the action as I could very closely thanks to the late great Steve Jobs and the technological wizardry he introduced by way of the smart phone. I started at one game but as the night wore on, I ended up at another.    


7:30 p.m. 

I started out in Newnan for Alcovy’s game because the Tigers were playing for their first region championship. Everything was going great and at 7:45 p.m. things looked good. 

Alcovy was up 7-0 in their game and Eastside (I would find out two hours later) was leading by the same score in McDonough against Henry County. At Sharp Stadium, I was getting minute-by-minute updates on the action and the Rams trailed 6-0 but Newnan was leading 12-0 over East Coweta so Newton was in decent shape.


8:02 p.m.

Alcovy gave up its lead and trailed 14-7 thanks to a pair of quick Northgate touchdowns. Eastside had also given up its lead and was tied but the Rams were coming back and led 7-6. East Coweta scored to make it close just down the road from me at Newnan so at the very least, we still had a shot at three playoff teams. Remember, Alcovy didn’t need to win to make it in. They had already wrapped up no worse than the No. 2 seed.


8:26 p.m.

Things were getting ugly at my game. Alcovy couldn’t stop Northgate’s running game and the offense was sputtering. The Vikings scored two more touchdowns and had seized control of the game. It was 28-7. At Henry County, Eastside was still battling but the Warhawks returned an interception for a touchdown and the Eagles were no longer in control of their game. The good news was Newton had just blocked a punt and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:55 to go in the half. 


8:45 p.m.

Alcovy gave up an inexplicable touchdown on the last play of the half. Northgate lined up to take a knee and a 28-7 lead into the locker room after the Tigers punted with 13 seconds left in the quarter but instead, broke out of the formation and threw a 47-yard touchdown pass with no time on the clock. Ironically I turned to my wife right before the play and said, ‘watch, I bet they run some sort of trick play’.

Sorry, I didn’t capture it on video. But if you want to see essentially the same play, watch the end of last week’s Ohio State-Wisconsin game when Braxton Miller rolled out right and hit a wide open receiver in the end zone. The play was very similar.


9:02 p.m.

Having had enough of watching Northgate destroy the Tigers, I figured if I hurried, I could make it to McDonough for the fourth quarter of the Eastside game. All three games were important but because Alcovy was playing for its first region championship, I’d decided that was the game I would cover. It was only fair. They deserved it. But the Eastside and Newton games were arguably more important because of the playoff implications. I had someone covering the home game but nobody at Henry County so I decided to hop in the car and see if that game was any better.


9:41 p.m.

Alcovy was putting the wraps on its worst performance of the season. My wife called me and told me the game was over merely 32 minutes after I’d left. That’s what happens when you’re down 30 in the fourth quarter and face a running clock. The Tigers lost 42-13 and have a week to lick their wounds before facing a tough Tri-Cities team at Sharp Stadium Friday.


9:48 p.m.

Georgia drivers are terrible and these one-lane back roads don’t help. With no traffic I could have made it to McDonough in 30 minutes — maybe less. Instead it took me nearly 50. I arrived at Henry County just in time to hear the announcer (and crowd) celebrate a Warhawk touchdown. Henry County had just scored its second touchdown off an interception. 

For a moment, I thought the score was 27-0 (I had yet to get any updates) and I just about hopped in the car and drove home. About the same time I heard the Eastside crowd cheering and the announcer described Justin Bates’ kickoff return to the Warhawks’ 8-yard line. I decided to go ahead and check out the rest of the game and figured I’d talk to Eastside coach rick Hurst after the game and get his thoughts on missing the playoffs for the first time in four years.


9:50 p.m.

As I walked up to the gate after rebundling up for the cold, Dante Blackmon caught a touchdown and I heard the Eagles’ band fire up the fight song. In my mind, it was a 27-7 game and still basically over because there was only four minutes left in the game. Then I took a closer look at the scoreboard and it read Henry County 27, Eastside 24. The Eagles were in this thing and suddenly we still had a shot at having three playoff teams.



I say we had a shot because Newton’s situation had taken a series of twists and turns while I was in the car en route to Henry County and the Rams were still alive albeit barely. They'd fought back to take a lead only to watch Luella run the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown and Newnan had rallied back to lead East Coweta 25-21. Little did I know Westlake was lying down at Langston Hughes. In reality, the Rams were done despite the stirring overtime win they were about to capture.


9:56 p.m.

Eastside’s playoff hopes went out the window just as quickly as they looked to be probable if not likely. After responding to get to within three, the defense held Henry County to a three-and-out and the Eagles were poised to get their chance. But Quan Moton made the most costly mistake of his career when he tried to field a bounding punt near midfield and the ball glanced off his hands. 


10:36 p.m.

The Newton game was still going on but their season was already over. The Rams had no idea at the time as they were immersed in their game. Give them credit, they did what they had to do. The other teams just didn’t hold up their end — as far as Ram fans were concerned.


10:47 p.m.

After talking with several of his seniors, Eastside coach Rick Hurst emerged from the visitor’s locker room for a chat. He was subdued but surprisingly upbeat. We talked for a few minutes. He put things in perspective and assured me Eastside will be back and hungrier than ever in 2012.


10:55 p.m.

In the car and on my way home, I ran through the night's events in my head. As a prep sports editor, you want every team to be successful. But success is elusive.

One play does not make a season. But the one play Eastside will remember in 2011 might be the fumbled punt. Moton, as sure-handed a player as Eastside has, tried to save his team precious yards. The first thing Hurst said when we started talking about it was “Quan, bless his heart. He was just trying to make a play.” But the punt took one of those uncharacteristic low rolls forward and stayed right on the ground. From Henry County’s perspective, it was the perfect scenario. Sensing the ball could wind up on Eastside’s 20-yard line or worse, Moton couldn’t get over quickly enough to get in front of it. It was simply a case of a senior trying to make a play because he knew how bad his team needed it. In the end the play summed up Eastside’s season. The ball simply never bounced the Eagles’ way this year. 

What a crazy night.