LAWRENCEVILLE - There weren't too many dry eyes inside the Central Gwinnett locker room Friday night after a 20-17 loss to Campbell at Tally Johnson Field.
The Black Knights moved the ball well the entire game, but lost three fumbles in the second half and had a punt blocked for a touchdown.
"It's tough in any season (when it's over)," Central Gwinnett head coach Bradley Warren said. "Whether you're 0-10 or 10-0, it's tough when you end. In the end there can be only one, so it's tough."
The game proved even more disappointing after Central led 10-6 at the half and held that lead through much of the third quarter.
That changed on the Black Knights' second possession of the second half when Campbell forced a three-and-out and blocked the ensuing punt. Campbell's Everett Hunter recovered the punt in the end zone to give his team a 13-10 lead.
Central started its next possession at its own 20-yard-line and marched down the field on the strong running of quarterback Logan Hunt and running back Diante Drake, both of whom finished with over 100 yards on the ground. A 21-yard run by Drake put Central Gwinnett inside the Spartans' 10-yard-line, but Campbell recovered a fumbled pitch by Hunt and the drive ended.
Campbell capitalized on the mistake three plays later when quarterback Dominic Tyler threw a 71-yard strike to Chris Lewis-Harris for a touchdown that made the score 20-10.
But the Black Knights kept battling back, putting together a 72-yard drive on their next possession that gave them first-and-goal at the 4-yard-line. But the drive ended abruptly when Hunt fumbled the ball through the end zone on the very next play. Campbell took possession of the ball and another touchdown opportunity was lost.
"We moved the ball well most of the night," Warren said. "The two fumbles inside the five and the blocked punt were crucial."
Central had two more possessions, but was only able to score on their last with 6.6 seconds remaining on the clock.
It was an inopportune night to have so many mistakes.
"This year we've been really up and down," Warren said. "Some games we've been almost flawless and other games we play we make a lot of mistakes. I can't fault the kids' effort, they gave me 110 percent and we just came up short tonight."
Drake, who led Gwinnett County with 17 touchdowns coming into the game, scored another in the second quarter Friday night. He finished with 104 yards on 18 carries. Hunt led the team in rushing with 125 yards on 24 carries.
The Central defense was able to hold Campbell's leading rusher, "Hoppo" Joseph, to just 49 yards on the night after he rushed for 1,216 yards during the regular season.
But in the end, the only number that mattered was the one on the scoreboard and that was enough to bring most of Central Gwinnett's players to tears.
"I hate that we had an early-round exit," Warren said. "I feel like we had a better team, but we weren't the better team tonight." CAMPBELL 20, CENTRAL GWINNETT 17
Central 0 10 0 7 - 17
Campbell 3 3 7 7 - 20
Campbell: Justin Kraemer 45 FG, 1:18
Central: Diante Drake 27 run (Devin Sabina kick) 9:17
Campbell: Kraemer 23 FG, 7:19
Central: Sabina 24 FG, :15.9
Campbell: Punt Block Recovered by Everett Hunter (Kraemer kick), 3:47
Campbell: Chris Lewis-Harris 71 pass from Dominic Tyler (Kraemer kick), 11:06
Central: Kyandre Banks 10 pass from Logan Hunt (Sabina kick), :06.6