The late-game moments giveth, and the late-game moments taketh away.
A game after going on the road to knock off North Gwinnett, Jones County saw another game come down to the wire in the final moments. This time, however, fate was not on the Greyhounds’ side as Veterans went for the two-point conversion in overtime rather than tying the game. The gamble worked, as the Warhawks ground game converted the try to win 43-42.
It capped a night in which the Greyhounds overcame the setback of additional injuries to roll up points, but had little answer for the Veterans wing-t offense and occasional passing game that amounted to 455 yards, 334 through the air.
There’s no rest of the weary for Jones County, which opens region play next week at Union Grove. The Wolverines are 2-1, having beaten Hampton and Starr’s Mill. The Greyhounds won last year’s matchup 62-22.
“I feel really good about this team. We have a very young football team,” Greyhounds head coach Mike Chastain said. “Sometimes, God puts you in areas of life to learn from. There’s a little storm that we have to fight through, right now, but I firmly believe that there’s light at the end after this storm passes.”
Down a running back and defensive back experience with Javious Bond on the sidelines with injuries, the need was there for more Greyhounds to step up and supplement the Greyhound offense on the ground and through the air. JCHS got the help it needed in that respect. Drew Jones stepped up to rush for 54 yards and three touchdowns, and Tucker Mix also ended up being the Greyhounds leading receiver with nine catches for 95 yards to go with a touchdown.
It all added up to 465 yards, enough to once again put the Greyhounds in position to win through a game that turned into an offensive back and forth battle. It was one made tougher on the Greyhounds defensively being down two defensive backs compared to the ones that they had in early August due to Kenny Wooten and Bond being limited to spectators on Friday.
“We’ve got a few injuries. We’re young and sometimes, young guys might struggle a little bit with some different things,” Chastain said. “We just have to continue to get better.”
The Greyhounds got the start that they needed on offense, driving 75 yards to lead 7-0 with 8:26 left in the first on a run by Jones. But in what’d be a theme throughout the game, Veterans found ways to convert key offensive plays when it needed them. A screen pass from Matthew Bruce to Deondre Kennedy tied it at 7-7 with 3:53 to go on the first quarter.
The exchanging of touchdowns continued in the second quarter, the Greyhounds with a nine-yard pass from John Alan Richter to Ed Chester and the Warhawks countering to tie it at 14 on a 43-yard pass to Damare Franklin, who gave the Greyhounds fits with 203 yards receiving on Friday. The Greyhounds, however, headed to halftime with the lead, in front thanks to Chester perfectly playing a tip off a deflection in the end zone, laying down as he caught the ball for his second touchdown of the game.
“We’re proud of the guys on offense for battling,” Chastain said.
If it was ball control that Veterans needed, it got just that to begin the second half, embarking on a nearly eight-minute drive to keep pressure on the Greyhounds defensively, converting three fourth downs on the scoring drive, to tie the score at 21-21. But in the face of an opposing offense that was able to move up and down the field and with not all of its weapons available, the Greyhounds offense kept digging, going back in front with 34 seconds left in the third quarter when Richter dumped off a screen to Mix, who fought through multiple Warhawks to score on a 24-yard scoring play.
Richter was 27-of-35 for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
Veterans tied it with 7:30 to play with Bruce’s short run to the end zone to cap a scoring drive, setting the table for JCHS to respond. After a big pass to Zion Ragins to keep the scoring drive going, Jones bowled into the end zone for the third time and a Greyhounds lead with 2:51 to play, up 35-28.
That’d be enough time for Veterans to knot the score again, needing less than a minute to even things up at 35-35 when Bruce found Franklin from 42 yards away with 2:17 to play.
In overtime, Jones County had the ball first. After a pass from Richter to Chester got the ball to the two-yard line, Jones made it 42-35. Then it was Veterans turn, and the Warhawks scored on a short scoring play of their own on a keeper by Bruce, setting up the eventual game-winning 2-point conversion.
“Overall, we’re a young football team. A lot of the mistakes we made were mainly because of our youth,” Chastain said. “We have to just go watch film and do what we have to do to get better.”