MARIETTA — Heading into its first Region 7AAAAA (B) game against Riverwood on Friday, Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford wanted to see his team turn things around defensively.
After the Yellow Jackets outlasted the Raiders, after Riverwood missed a potential game-tying field goal with 12 seconds left in the game, to win 24-21. After the win, Shackelford was gushing about his team’s defensive performance.
“You’ve just got to tip your cap to our defense (Friday),” he said. “We’ve struggled defensively this season (giving up a combined 90 points in the last two games), but (Friday) our boys didn’t have any quit in them. I told them that we’re 1-0 now (in the subregion) and it’s a new season.”
Sprayberry’s first two touchdowns were scored on fumble returns — the first a 20-yard return by Sawyer Page and then a 37-yarder by Tevin Moore. The Yellow Jackets went ahead 21-0 on a 2-yard run by quarterback Shane Young with 5:09 left in the second quarter.
However, two touchdowns within a 5-minute period late in the third quarter and early in the fourth brought Riverwood to within 21-14.
The Yellow Jackets clung to a 24-21 advantage, after a 32-yard field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship, when Riverwood got the ball with 1:58 left in the game. The Raiders drove to the Sprayberry 15-yard-line with 12 seconds left.
On a 4th-and-1, the Raiders attempted a 36-yard field goal, but the kick fell inches below the crossbar, and Sprayberry (2-4) ran out the clock for the win.
After the game, Riverwood head coach Robert Ingram was almost at a loss for words.
“I’m just speechless,” Ingram admitted. “We fought hard, but our lack of character really showed at the end of the game, and that’s on the coaches, not on the boys. I take full responsibility for this loss.”
Prior to the game-tying field goal attempt, Sprayberry defensive back Rickey Dover broke up a pass in the end zone that would have given Riverwood the lead with 30 seconds left. Then the Raiders lined up to go for a first down on a 4th-and-1 play with 12 seconds left at the Sprayberry 15.
Riverwood, which fell to 5-2 on the season, was called for an illegal motion penalty and had to settle for the field goal attempt.