Photo: Craig Cappy Brookwoods Jamaal Cole (23) outruns Parkview's Keanu Mole (1) during Friday's game.
Photo: Craig Cappy Brookwood's D.J. Brown (10) attempts to get away from Parkview defender Rob Youngblood (7) following a reception during Friday's game.
Photo: Craig Cappy Brookwood's Nick Tompkins (32) looks for running room before being tackled by Parkview's Rob Youngblood (7) during Friday's game. Tompkins had an 80-yard kickoff return with 15 seconds left to win the game for the Broncos.
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SNELLVILLE --Dave Hunter suffered through some crazy, gut-wrenching losses to rival Parkview over the years. He won some close ones, too.
But Hunter, Brookwood's head coach from 1987 to 2001, has never seen anything like what happened Friday night in the annual Battle of Five Forks-Trickum.
"There have been some wild games in this series, but this was the wildest," Hunter said.
Nick Tompkins returned a kickoff 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 15 seconds left as the host Broncos won a see-saw game that saw 26 points and four lead changes in the game's final two minutes.
Each team scored two TDs in that time span, all on big plays covering 81, 56, 33 and 80 yards. The most improbable was the last one, a stunning play from Tompkins after Parkview had scored a go-ahead TD with only 32 seconds remaining.
"This has got to be the craziest finish to a football game I've been a part of in 35 years of coaching," said Brookwood head coach Mark Crews, like Hunter a veteran who endured painful last-second losses to Parkview in 1988, 1999 and 2000. "Both teams played their butts off for 48 minutes, right to the end."
The Broncos (6-2, 5-1 Region 8-AAAAA) nearly had the victory sealed after back-to-back sacks forced Parkview into a third-and-31 with slightly more than two minutes left. Instead of getting the likely stop, they let Jordan Reid get behind the defense and Jack Esmonde (197 passing yards) hit him in stride for an 81-yard scoring strike that put the Panthers ahead 13-10.
Three plays later, Brookwood regained the lead when Zach Moon found B.J. Sammon for a 56-yard TD pass with 1:34 left.
Parkview's Rob Youngblood returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, setting up his team for another short scoring drive. This one took four plays, with Esmonde finding Reid again for a 33-yard score with only 32 seconds left.
The Panthers kicked it deep --Parkview head coach Cecil Flowe didn't want to risk a squib kick that would allow Brookwood to get within field-goal range --and Tompkins made them pay.
"Our kids played phenomenal," Flowe said. "It was a hard-fought, epic battle. It was back-and-forth. There have been some crazy football games between us, but this was probably the craziest one we've ever played."
Tompkins provided the unlikeliest finish.
The senior received the kickoff near the home sideline, then reversed field and turned the corner. He split a crease and was off to the races, crossing the goal line with 15 seconds left.
"I was surprised they kicked it to me," said Tompkins, the Great American Rivalry Series MVP medal hanging around his neck. "I just saw it as my opportunity to take control of it and I did. I turned back and there was nobody over there. I made a couple of cuts and I was gone."
After Tompkins' TD, the Panthers ran out of answers. A long bomb by Esmonde from his own 20-yard line was intercepted by Jamaal Cole with four seconds left, allowing Brookwood to run out the clock.
Parkview (4-4, 4-2) gave the defending Class AAAAA state champions a fight from the opening kickoff. The Panthers led 6-3 at halftime, with a Chris Carson TD providing the edge over the Broncos, who just managed a 39-yard Brandon Morrow field goal in the first two quarters.
Brookwood scored on its first drive of the second half to go ahead 10-6, using Tompkins' running to set up D.J. Brown's 5-yard TD run. That lead held until Parkview's unbelievable third-and-31 conversion, which set off a sequence of events that the now 30-year-old rivalry had never seen before.
"It was by far one of the best games I've seen," Tompkins said. "I've never been in a game like this before."