Photo: Lily McGregor Peachtree Ridge quarterback Billy Best hurries to throw a pass downfield before being tackled by Collins Hill linebacker Andrew Everett on Friday night.
SUWANEE -- Momentum in football is a fickle thing. One team has it for most of the game only to lose it and the contest in the final moments.
Peachtree Ridge's Darien Horn caught a 33-yard pass from Billy Best with 38.2 seconds left, lifting the Lions to a 28-27, Region 7-AAAAA victory over Collins Hill Friday night.
"This is a big win, no doubt," Lions coach Mark Fleetwood said. "Collins Hill really played great but we found a way to win at the end."
The Eagles opened the game with an 11-play 72-yard drive that resulted in a 25-yard Mitchell Blanchard field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
Peachtree Ridge came right back and reeled off an 18-play, 81-yard drive which was culminated when Best connected with Ahmaad Harris on a 29-yard post pattern with 11:03 left in the second quarter. Connor Rouleau converted the extra point to give the visitors a 7-3 lead.
Collins Hill answered right back. A 32-yard sweep by Tyler Henderson and a personal foul for a horse collar on the tackle moved the ball to the Lions 27. Four plays later, Jordan Parker raced around the left end for the score. Blanchard's conversion gave the Eagles a 10-7 lead.
The Eagles had two chances for a field goal before halftime. The first attempt failed due to a bad snap, the second was converted when Blanchard split the uprights with 1.5 seconds left in the second quarter.
Collins Hill increased its lead to 20-7 thanks in part to a Peachtree Ridge fumble of an option pitch which gave the Eagles the ball on the Lions' 37. Parker again capped the drive with a second-effort plunge from the one where he was initially stopped in mid air by the Peachtree Ridge defense. Blanchard's PAT moved the advantage to 20-7 with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
The Lions needed only two minutes to respond as they were initially stopped on their drive only to recover a muffed punt return by the Eagles on the Collins Hill 20. Two plays later, Diandre Atwater took the option pitch around the right end and scored from the 19. Rouleau's conversion brought the Lions within 20-14 entering the final quarter.
With 9:59 left in the game the Eagles increased their lead on a 44-yard pass from Brett Sheehan to Tevin Holliday, who had gotten behind the Lions defensive backs. Blanchard's PAT was good and the lead stood at 27-14.
With under four minutes left, the Lions cut the Eagles' lead to 27-21 when Raham Dixon took the option pitch around the right side and scored from the 3. Rouleau was good with the conversion, setting up an onside kick scenario for Peachtree Ridge.
Rouleau's onside kick skidded along the ground, bounced up into the air right before the Eagles defenders but no Lion was able to gather it in before the ball went out of bounds. Collins Hill had the ball and could seal the game with a first down.
However, the Eagles could not move the chains and punted back to Peachtree Ridge with 1:20 left in the game.
With no timeouts, the Lions alternated pass completions and spiking the ball to move to the Collins Hill 33. Best, rolled to the right, eluded a sack effort by an Eagle lineman and found Horn behind the a safety for the tying score. Rouleau was true with the conversion and the Lions, the school that was carved out of kids mostly from the Collins Hill cluster, had defeated them in a stunning fashion.
"We needed to learn how to win in clutch moments," Fleetwood said.
Consider the lesson learned for the Lions.