DULUTH -- A 48-43 loss to the Orlando Predators in a key Arena Football League South Division game Saturday night at The Arena at Gwinnett Center was tough enough for the Georgia Force.
But it was even more galling after the Force, who led most of the way, let an early 14-point lead slip away.
Nick Hill's 23-yard run with 36 seconds remaining gave the Predators (4-1) the lead, and Rayshaun Kizer's second interception of the night with 20 seconds left sealed it.
"This stings a lot because we got up on a great team," said Force defensive back Ahmad Hawkins, who had a strong game with four pass break-ups. "We kind of had them up against the ropes, but we couldn't get that knock out punch."
And a left knee injury suffered by starting quarterback Brett Elliott early in the fourth quarter only added injury to insult for the Force (3-2).
Elliot, who was 20 of 27 passing for 215 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, went down after getting the ball away under heavy pressure with 10:09 to play and the Force leading 37-35.
The severity of his injury is still unknown, and he is scheduled to undergo an MRI today.
Backup Darnell Kennedy had a rough start, mishandling the first snap and barely avoiding a safety after recovering it in his own end zone.
However, he did put the Force in front 43-42 with his 7-yard touchdown run with 1:11 to play.
But Hill, who finished the game 25 of 40 for 328 yards and five TDs, avoided the Georgia rush on the third play of the ensuing drive and scampered his way to the game-winning score.
"It was a division game, and that's what makes it so tough," Hawkins said. "They made plays at the end of the game. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but you've got to move on."
The Force couldn't have asked for a better start as C.J. Johnson lept and made a one-handed grab of the opening kickoff before it hit the metal crossbar at the bottom of the left-side netting.
He then weaved his way though the first line of Orlando kick coverage before crossing the field and diving into the end zone for a 57-yard return for a touchdown, putting the Force up 7-0 just 14 seconds into the game.
Georgia's momentum carried over to Orlando's first possession, which ended with a stop after consecutive sacks by Rodney Hardaway and Jerry Turner on third and fourth down.
And the Force offense turned the stop into points on its next possession, capping a seven-play, 29-yard march into points with a little razzle-dazzle on fourth and goal from the Orlando 1-yard line.
Elliot sent a quick pitch on a reverse to Larry Shipp, who quickly flipped the ball to a wide-open Johnson for the score that pushed the Georgia lead to14-0 with 6:40 left in the first quarter.