For the better part of the first two quarters on Friday night, the Gordon Lee Trojans looked primed to put an end to not only Trion's five-game winning streak in the state's oldest, continuously played series, but to spoil the Bulldogs' chances of possibly playing for a Region 6-A championship next Friday night.
But one big play in the final minute of the first half would swing the momentum toward the visitors and a few more big plays in the second half would keep it there.
Tanner Railey's 68-yard interception return with 55 seconds left before halftime helped turn a 13-0 second quarter deficit in a 14-13 lead and the Bulldogs went on to a hard-fought 37-19 victory over the Trojans.
The win moved Trion to 7-2 overall and 5-1 in Region 6-A, keeping them in a first place tie with both Darlington and Mt. Zion atop the North subregion standings.
The three teams will now await the release of the Class A power rankings early next week to determine the subregion champions and who will play Mt. Paran Christian for the region crown and the automatic state playoff berth next week. Mt. Paran captured the South subregion title with a 35-17 win over Mt. Pisgah Christian on Friday.
Gordon Lee (2-7, 1-5) drove 79 yards in 13 plays to open the game, taking over six minutes off the clock before Braden Jarvis scored on a 3-yard run. The extra point was no good.
Late in the first quarter, Jackson Moore recovered a Jarrett Gill fumble to get the ball back for the Trojans and the home team would march 62 yards in nine plays. Two big runs by quarterback Austin Thompson aided the drive before Jarvis finished it off by shaking off a tackler at the line of scrimmage and using a nice cutback to score from 13 yards out to make the score 13-0 with 8:54 left in the half.
Trion would counter with a 65-yard drive as Logan Blevins plowed in from three yards out with 4:51 remaining in the second quarter, cutting the lead down to 13-7. Gordon Lee would move the ball into Bulldog territory on its ensuing drive, but Railey's big pick-six and a follow-up PAT gave the Blue-and-White a one-point advantage at the break.
The Bulldogs opened the third quarter with five straight runs before a post pattern over the middle ended up as a 27-yard TD catch from Cole Phillips. Trion would recover a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but Tucker Miller would get the ball right back for the Trojans as he made a nice leaping interception on a halfback pass from Phillips inside the 10.
However, the drive would stall near midfield, setting the table for the next big Trion play. Hayden Willingham returned a punt inside the Gordon Lee 20 before Railey took a pitch and ran around left end for 16 yards to increase the lead to 28-13.
Gordon Lee would take to the air in an attempt to get back in the game. A 34-yard catch by Hunter Hodson, an 18-yard catch-and-run by Miller and a 5-yard grab by Henry Ellis preceded a 14-yard TD pass from Thompson to Hodson. The extra point missed wide, but the Trojans would trail by just nine points with 2:32 left in the third.
But six plays into Trion's next possession, Gill and Phillips hooked up once more on the post route, this time for a 46-yard score that came with just four seconds left in the period. Miller would run the kickoff back to midfield, but the Bulldogs would force a Gordon Lee fumble three plays later and Trion would convert the turnover into a 21-yard field goal with 5:58 to play.
Gill would break the Trojans' backs with a pick of a halfback pass on the very next play from scrimmage and Trion's running game would grind up all but 30 seconds of the remaining 5:36 to seal the victory.
Trion finished with 330 yards of offense, 248 coming on 44 rushing attempts. Blevins was the workhorse with 105 yards on 16 carries. Gill had 82 yards on 3-of-5 passing, all to Phillips.
Gordon Lee got 146 yards on the ground. Jarvis led the way with 81 tough yards on 19 carries, while Thompson went for 62 yards on seven attempts. Thompson was 12-of-18 passing for 128 yards and Hodson led the receivers with 80 yards on six catches.
"Like I told the kids, we played a great game, but we can't continue to make the same mistakes here and there," Gordon Lee head coach Greg Ellis said. "It's been killing us all year. We gave up some big plays, but we have a lot of young kids out here playing.
"I thought we played well, but Trion has a really good football team with 20 seniors. For us, it's just a matter of everything clicking, but our guys played their tails off tonight. I'm very proud of them."
Teams in the North subregion will play crossover games at the South subregion teams next week.