NORCROSS -- To hear Wesleyan head coach Franklin Pridgen after the Wolves' 27-10 loss to Elbert County, you may have thought the score was reversed.
But anyone who saw the game knows just two costly turnovers made the difference in this hard-fought matchup of two teams that have a good shot at postseason play come November.
A fumble midway through the first quarter that Elbert County returned for a touchdown and an interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter spelled the difference in this matchup of the Class AA Blue Devils and Class A Wolves.
"It was a great learning experience for a very young and inexperienced football team," said Pridgen. "We put ourselves in a hole that we could not climb out of, although we sure gave it a great shot. I'm very proud of our defense, in particular, and I'm sure after the first six minutes that everybody thought it would be a blowout.
"But we improved so much from last week and it was a great learning experience and that's what we want for this team so early in the season. Actually, I'm really positive even though I don't like to lose. But I will actually look at this (game) as a very positive experience because we didn't play that poorly, except for two plays."
It did look like a blowout early on as Elbert County built a 15-0 lead.
Ira Robinson's 37-yard return of a fumble after Wesleyan quarterback Will Anderson was sacked started the scoring with 6:06 left in the first quarter. Elbert County elected to go for two after a Wesleyan penalty on the point-after try and Demetrius Sanders barreled in to make it 8-0 Blue Devils.
Less than two minutes later after another Wesleyan fumble, Elbert County's Tyshon Dye raced into the end zone from 44 yards out on the first play and after Alain Cruz kicked the extra point, the Blue Devils (2-0) had built the 15-lead.
But Wesleyan (1-1) didn't quit, thanks to a defense that held steady in the first half and kept the Wolves in the game.
An eight-play drive resulted in a 24-yard field goal from Eric Sunderman on the first play of the second quarter made it 15-3 and that was the score heading into halftime.
That set the stage for Wesleyan to pull close right out of the gate in the third quarter as Anderson connected with Sunderman on a 27-yard scoring pass. After Sunderman nailed the extra point, the Wolves trailed just 15-10 with nearly a full half left.
But Elbert County answered on a nine-play, 72-yard drive that was capped off by Dye's 1-yard run with 5:35 left in the third quarter.
Dye's second TD of the night came after quarterback Hunter Blackmon had hit Terrell Hughes for 49 yards down to the Wesleyan 1.
Dye finished with 189 yards on 19 carries.
Elbert County closed out the scoring on the Blue Devils' second defensive TD of the night that salted away the game as Marquice Dye returned an interception 64 yards for the score.
Wesleyan played the last few minutes and the entire fourth quarter without Anderson, who injured his left knee and did not return.
Freshman Christian Stark came on in relief of Anderson, but the Wolves couldn't hit on all cylinders and find the end zone.
Anderson finished the game 19 of 24 for 184 yards and a TD pass.
His favorite target was Sunderman, who had 10 catches for 119 yards and a TD catch.