The Yellow Jackets Win 26 -22 ** Homecoming 2010 **
MARIETTA - D.J. Funderburg switched hats faster than a quick-change artist Friday night.
Fortunately for Sprayberry, his final headgear was the hero's laurels for the Yellow Jackets' elusive and versatile wide receiver with warning label shoes.
"Since I felt like I put us behind, I wanted to be the reason that we won tonight," said the 5-foot-8, 160-pounder, whose 50-yard fingertip-catch-and-run reception with 4:19 left in the game provided the winning margin in the Yellow Jackets' 26-22 victory over East Paulding at Jim Frazier Stadium.
Less than 2 minutes earlier, the Raiders had forged a 22-19 lead, scoring two plays after Funderburg's fumble on a punt-return at the Sprayberry 34.
"I was bringing myself down after that play," said Funderburg, who had put in a previous bid for the hero's mantle with a 20-yard touchdown catch that gave his team a 19-14 lead with 7:53 left in the fourth period. "But my teammates brought me back up, and I want to thank them for that."
For a couple of agonizing moments it seemed the Sprayberry faithful would depart disappointed once again, victimized by demoralizing fumbles, as Funderburg's was the Jackets' third one of the game. But coach Billy Shackelford's squad refused to buckle, realizing a victory was imperative if the Jackets (2-3, 1-1) were going to maintain serious designs on the Region 5AAAA playoffs.
"We all understood that going in," Shackelford said. "We're back in it, and we have to beat some of the big boys coming up."
Funderburg's golden football shoes with "Don't" and "Jump" painted on the heels carried him to an outstanding evening as he accrued 75 yards on four receptions, 10 yards on two carries and 170 return yards for a total of 255 all-purpose yards.
"The explanation for 'Don't Jump' is what I'm telling opponents when they are trying to catch me from behind," smiled Funderburg. "Don't bother jumping at me if you can't tackle me. It's the same as 'Eat my dust'."
Funderburg's outing could have been even more glorious, as his 66-yard punt return touchdown early in the fourth quarter was canceled by a block-in-the-back penalty at the East Paulding 30.
However, starting from the 40, quarterback Oran Davis guided the Jackets to the end zone in seven plays, the last being Funderburg's first touchdown catch.
The most critical play of the drive was a 19-yard pass on a fake punt from punter Marcus Moses to Lamont Session that transformed a fourth-and-10 at the 40 into a first down at the 21.
Before the Jackets helped East Paulding (4-2, 1-2) back into the game, they threatened to send the Raiders packing, building a 13-0 lead in the first half on Josh Moody's 3-yard rumble and Davis' 26-yard scamper up the middle.
Taylor Harren's 36-yard interception return of an ill-advised screen pass by Raiders quarterback Sean Ashley set up the second tally, but Moody's lost fumble set up the Raiders at the Sprayberry 12 a few minutes later. But Moody atoned for the turnover by intercepting Ashley in the end zone and thundering 68 yards before he was brought down.
"We minimized our mistakes tonight, though we still had our share of them," Shackelford said. "If we ever put a complete game together, we will be a pretty good team."
And as long as D.J. Funderburg flies along in his "Catch me if you can" shoes, the Jackets can keep marching toward the playoffs.