BETHLEHEM--Apalachee hosted Heritage on Senior Night needing a win to keep its playoff hopes alive. But the visiting Patriots extinguished all remaining Wildcat postseason hopes.
Behind 66 bruising yards from fullback Mercer Bradley, the Patriots built a 21-point halftime lead and cruised to a 35-0 victory Friday to seal their own playoff berth.
"We're disappointed we had to win to get in and our kids are down" said Apalachee head coach Shane Davis. "The expectation is for us to be in the playoffs. I know that and that's what our kids expect. That's what our coaching staff, school and community expects. We just didn't get it done."
Midway through the first quarter in a scoreless game, Heritage (8-2, 6-2 Region 8-AAAAA) used some special teams trickery to take the lead. A fake punt on 3rd-and-three from its own 47-yard line gained 8 yards to keep the drive alive. Two plays later Bradley burst through the middle for 29 yards and a 7-0 Patriots lead.
"That fake was big", said Davis, "we worked on it and they run a number of different number of fake punts and they are good at it. We've seen them all, but they executed it well."
After Heritage extended the lead on a 1-yard QB sneak by Ryan Sutton early in the 2nd quarter, the Wildcats embarked on an 8-play drive highlighted by a 27-yard pass from Clint Ashe to Jermaine Smith. The drive stalled and Heritage took over on downs at its own 31-yard line with 3:35 remaining in the half.
Sutton connected with Cedrick Davenport on a 42-yard pass to the Apalachee 12-yard line, and Dominic Gilles capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run with 36 seconds left in the quarter for a 21-0 Patriots lead at half.
Apalachee (4-5, 3-4 Region 8-AAAAA) was unable to move the ball consistently against a stubborn Heritage defensive front, which held the prolific Wildcats rushing attack to 98 yards.
Heritage pulled away in the 3rd quarter. A 42-yard touchdown reception by Obe Fortune extended the lead to 28-0. Steven Everson later intercepted an Ashe pass and returned in 60 yards for a touchdown to seal the victory.