South takes down playoff-bound Archer on last-second field goal

LAWRENCEVILLE -- South Gwinnett got plenty of chances to quit.

The two-win Comets came into Friday's season finale out of the playoffs and facing postseason hopeful Archer. They fell behind 7-0, then 14-7, then 21-14.

But each time, they fought back.

With the game tied at 21-21, the Comets got one more chance. Archer attempted a 50-yard go-ahead field goal. But instead of just missing it, the Tigers mishandled the snap, giving South the ball near midfield.

One more chance.

They went backward. Jordan Ramey turned a sack into nine-yard gain. Then, on third down, they took their shot. Ramey faked a short pass and then lofted it down field to Bernard Morrison, who despite the coverage came down with the ball inside the 5-yard line.

"When I saw what play was called I already knew it was going to me," Morrison said. "I already knew I was going to make the catch. I thought I was going to score."

Three plays later, Amar Salihic banged through a 22-yard field goal, turning and beginning the celebration before the officials could get their arms upright and South came away with the 24-21 upset.

The upset only lasted Friday night at Archer, which still makes the playoffs for the first time in the young school's history as the No. 4 seed from Region 8-AAAAA and will travel to North Gwinnett on Friday. There were no smiles about the historic step, but head coach Andy Dyer understood it was a big one.

"Everybody is extremely disappointed, but we get an opportunity to go play again next week," Dyer said. "It's a great thing for Archer. The seniors, this football team has a tremendous amount to be proud of. While it hurts tonight, by Sunday we've got to start getting focused and ready to go."

There are plenty of things, the Tigers can work on in preparation for another spread team in North Gwinnett.

Against South, quarterback Ramey threw for 323 yards on 23 of 32 passing. Morrison caught nine of those balls for 159 yards adding a touchdown to his late-game heroics. Ramey connected with eight different receivers and caught a pass of his own from Morrison.

"We had a lot of young kids that made plays tonight," Small said.

The South players didn't linger too long on Archer's field, but stuck around for a few hugs and hand-slaps between seniors and underclassmen. And every player smiled.

"It feels good that we ended the season like this," said Morrison, who started playing regularly for South in the season's fourth game. "For the seniors, we had to do it for them. This last game is going to prepare us for next year, so we can start off good next year."

And they had to play all of the game without a lead.

Archer's Jarvis Holley ripped off a 44-yard touchdown in the first quarter to give the Tigers the early lead. The running quarterback broke down field and cut back across the South Gwinnett defense to get into the end zone.

But South battled back. The teams traded turnovers and the Comets responded driving 57 yards capped off by a 1-yard run by Jourdin Shiloh to tie the game for his first of two touchdowns in the game.

For the rest of the first half, neither team managed much offense. South bottled up the Tigers' running game, holding Ernest Alexander just 27 yards on seven carries. The Comets' spread offense racked up yards, with Ramey throwing to seven different receivers for more than 100 yards, but every drive seemed to stall.

The stall hurt the worst when Zach Wright blocked the South Gwinnett punt and Jimkenny Bazile scooped up the ball at the 21 and piled into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

The back-and-forth continued in the third quarter. Shiloh tied the game for South on a 2-yard run. Two minutes later Archer's Alexander capped off a dominating drive with a 14-yard touchdown to re-take the lead. And a minute after that, Morrison caught the game's final touchdown with 1:19 left in the third quarter.

Archer saw drive after drive stall with holding penalties, including one that took away a touchdown.

"We played sloppy," Dyer said. "We made way too many mistakes. When you make that many mistakes, you don't deserve to win. We still had our opportunities to seal the deal and we didn't do it. We stopped ourselves."

And South finally took advantage and enters the offseason with some excitement.

"Our kids have fought all year against a lot of adversity," Small said "They could have come out and laid down out here against a great Archer football team. I am so proud of our kids, the way that came out and battled tonight. It showed a lot of heart and a lot of character."