Photo: David McGregor
Georgia Force receiver Maurice Purify breaks a tackle by Dallas defender Chris LeFlore during the Force's win over the Vigilantes on Friday night.
DULUTH — To say the Georgia Force won Friday night’s game with the Dallas Vigilantes ugly might just be an insult to ugly.
Still, beauty turned out to be in the eyes of the Force and 6,355 other beholders at The Arena at Gwinnett Center after their 55-48 victory.
Brett Elliott hooked up with Larry Shipp for a 29-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining for the winning points.
But the victory wasn’t secure until Ahmad Hawkins knocked Dallas receiver Matt Fields into the boards a yard short of a potential tying score on the game’s final play.
“The offense has been carrying us a lot,” said Hawkins, who finished the game with seven solo tackles, one of the Force’s three interceptions and several key pass breakups. “It was just (the defense’s) turn.”
While the offense had plenty of moments Friday — Elliott completed 23 of 39 passes for 360 yards and seven touchdowns, with 11 completions going to Maurice Purify for 136 yards and two scores and nine more to Shipp for 213 yards and three TDs — they had trouble converting the defense’s five stops into points until the last one.
That’s when the Georgia (3-1) defense forced Dallas (2-2) into a 39-yard field goal attempt with 56 seconds left that sailed harmlessly into the left-side netting, which C.J. Johnson picked up and ran back to the Force 2-yard line with 43 seconds left.
Three plays later, Elliott hooked up with Purify for what turned out to be the game winning score.
“We tried to clear everybody out and coach (Dean Cokinos) did a good job of calling (the play),” Elliott said. “And I found Larry on the drag (route). He had a great game.”
But the game still wasn’t over after a pair of Dan Raudabaugh completions and a Georgia penalty gave Dallas the ball at the Force 9 with three seconds left.
Raudabaugh then found Fields in along the left sideline, and it looked like he might find the end zone to give the Vigilantes a chance to kick to send the game into overtime.
But Hawkins managed to pin Fields into the boards just short of the goal line as the clock ran out, preserving the win.
The Force created as many turnovers as they committed — four for each team.
But it was the untimeliness of Georgia’s turnovers that proved costly.
Two of them came immediately after Dallas turnovers, allowing the Vigilantes to own a 21-7 advantage in points off miscues.
Both teams also had trouble with penalties, as the Force were whistled 11 times for 76 yards — including negating two touchdowns and an interception by Hawkins — and had two players, Eric Crosby and Jeff Littlejohn ejected during a late-game altercation.
Meanwhile, Dallas drew 10 flags for 112 yards and had Tony Washington ejected in the same incident.