EATONTON - Gatewood senior tailback Palmer Clark rushed for over 150 yards Friday night against Bulloch Academy, but it was the three yards that he didn't get that decided the game.
Clark was stopped inches shy of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt with under a minute left in the game as the Bulloch defense preserved a hard-fought 35-34 victory.
"I don't know if I can take many more of these crazy games," said BA head coach Terence Hennessy. "I can't say enough about how hard the kids played. They could have laid down on the two-point conversion try but they made a big stop and we did what we had to do to run out the clock and get the win."
Bulloch (4-0) took a 35-28 lead late in the fourth quarter in the see-saw battle.
Gatewood kicker Matthew Weeks dropped back to punt at his own 37. But the snap went over his head and bounced around at the 10-yard line. Weeks finally caught the ball and tried to kick it away but BA's Lanier Olliff partially blocked it and the Gators recovered at the GW 5.
Two plays later, tailback Jarves Williams, who led BA with 105 yards on just seven carries, rumbled in from one yard out. Tyler Budgett added the two-point conversion.
Gatewood (3-1) got the ball back with 3:18 left and came roaring down the field. On the seventh play of the drive, GW quarterback Reid Sasser connected with 6-3 receiver Jake Turner for a 20-yard touchdown with 54.9 seconds left. GW took a timeout to discuss the two-point conversion try. When they lined up for the attempt, Hennessy called timeout to position his players.
"We were exhausted and they were exhausted," he said. "Both teams laid it all on the line."
Clark, who was Gatewood's workhorse with 25 carries for 163 yards, got the call but was stopped inches short of the goal line.
Bulloch got the ball back and was able to run out the clock for the win.
"They gashed us some," said Hennessy, "but every time we a new challenge arose, our kids were able to handle it."
Almost a mirror image of each other, the Statesboro Gators and the Eatonton Gators pounded on each other from the first snap of the ball.
"They were a good team," said Hennessy. "It was an incredible game."
Gatewood took a 14-7 lead after the opening quarter but Bulloch knotted the score with 9:04 left in the second quarter.
GW was poised to take a lead late in the second but Clark fumbled the ball into the end zone and Olliff was Johnny-on-the-spot for the recovery. Two plays later, Olliff tossed the ball to Tyler Budgett on the wing and the speedy senior raced 70 yards to the Gatewood 11. Three plays later, he rumbled from the one for his second TD of the night and a 21-14 lead with 2:40 left.
"That score was a turning point for us," said Hennessy. "It allowed us to go into halftime with a lead."
Bulloch went up 27-14 in the third when Williams blew through a hole like he had been shot out of a cannon and scored on 59-yard run. The PAT was blocked to set the stage for the fourth-quarter heroics.
BA 7 14 6 8 — 35
GW 14 0 7 13 — 34
GW_Turner 22 pass from Sasser (Weeks kick) 6:43
BA_Budgett 2 run (Marsh kick) 3:13
GW_Turner 64 pass from Sasser (Weeks kick) :55.7
BA_Lovett 2 run (Marsh kick) 9:04
BA_Budgett 1 run (Marsh kick) 2:40
BA_Williams 59 run (kick blocked), 6:17
GW_Stapp 30 run (Weeks run) 5:19
GW_Sasser 5 run (Weeks kick) 10:24
BA_Williams 4 run (Budgett run) 3:18
GW_Turner 20 pass from Sasser (run failed) :54.9
First downs 12 17
Total Yards 404 376
Rushes-yards 33-238 42-270
Passing 166 106
Comp-Att-Int 6-14-2 3-9-0
Turnovers 2 1
Penalties-Yards 8-85 7-60
Rushing_BA: Williams 7-105, Budgett 10-77, Lovett 11-58; GW_Clark 25-163, Stapp 9-67.
Passing_BA: Olliff 6-14-2-0, 166; GW_Sasser 3-7-0-3, 106.
Receiving_BA: Perry 2-54, Williams 2-33; GW_Turner 3-106.