After coming up with a big fourth-and-one stop with 3:36 to play, the Northwest Whitfield Bruins picked up two final first downs to run out the clock and get past Heritage, 31-27, in an important Region 7-AAAA game for both teams Friday night at Jeff Sims Field.
With the victory, Northwest (5-2, 1-2) kept from falling into an 0-3 hole in the standings with just two region games left on the docket, while Heritage (4-4) fell to 1-2 in 7-AAAA with only games against Pickens and region frontrunner Cedartown remaining on its slate.
Despite 12 penalties for 123 yards, three lost fumbles and an interception, Northwest got the go-ahead score on quarterback Owen Brooker's second 1-yard TD run of the night with 5:57 to go.
The Bruins defense rose up just over two minutes later to force the turnover on downs at the Northwest 45 and one final six-yard gain by Brooker on third-and-three from the Heritage 34 would seal the win. Brooker was initially hit at the line of scrimmage, but shrugged off the tackle before getting the needed yardage to help keep his team's season alive.
The sophomore signal-caller went 12 of 25 in the air for 237 yards with one TD toss, while leading the Bruins with 60 yards on 16 carries. Two of his receivers also had big games. Matt Redmond had four catches for 83 yards, including a 50-yard score from fellow receiver Ray Morrison on a trick play in the first quarter. Morrison had 171 yards and a score on just five receptions.
Redmond's TD grab with 4:09 to play in the first gave Northwest its first lead and answered a 37-yard field goal by Heritage kicker Anderson Britton on the Generals' first possession. But a pick by Logan Lowe later in the quarter, along with a nice 37-yard catch by Cade Kiniry, set up Heritage to retake a 10-8 lead on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Nick Hanson with 50 seconds left in the period.
Yahir Zapata put Northwest back on top with a 32-yard field goal just 21 seconds into the second quarter, but less than minute later, running back Paxton McCrary spun out of two attempted tackles and outran the Bruins' secondary for a 57-yard TD run that gave the home team a 17-11 lead.
Northwest looked as if they would tie it up midway through the quarter, but Jacob Lozano chased down Morrison after an 83-yard catch to strip the ball free and Dylan Bryan, back in the lineup for the first time in several weeks, recovered deep in Generals' territory to end the threat.
But the Bruins would get the ball back after forcing a punt and this time they would march 63 yards in 10 plays with Brooker punching it in from the 1-yard line with 1:20 to go. A blocked kick would keep the score at 17-all going into halftime.
Northwest would score first in the second half. After Heritage had to punt on its first possession, the visitors went 72 yards to go in front. Fifteen yards came on a Heritage face mask penalty, while Brooker was 4 of 5 in the air on the drive for 65 yards, including a 33-yard scoring strike to Morrison with 7:27 left in the third.
Heritage would respond with a 22-yard field goal by Britton and Bryan would pounce on the pigskin following a pooch kickoff that Northwest couldn't handle. The drive looked like it would bog down in the redzone, but on third-and-goal from the 14, Hanson rolled right and threw a pass back across the field to a wide-open Bryce Travillian, who walked the final two steps into the endzone to put the Navy-and-Red back in front, 27-24 with 39 seconds left in the third.
The Generals' onside kick attempt failed, but just three plays into the Bruins' ensuing possession, Paxton Smith dislodged the ball from Redmond on a run and Jonathan Washburn recovered it at the Heritage 32.
Three plays later, however, Redmond made up for his mistake by intercepting a tipped pass at the Heritage 41 and the Bruins would eventually get Brooker's second TD run of the night on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to give his team the lead for good.
McCrary rushed 25 times for 148 yards for the Generals, while Hanson was 11 of 20 passing for 122 yards to five different pass-catchers, but was picked off twice. Kiniry had a team-best 53 yards on just two catches.