Darlington’s season opener against Whitefield Academy came down right to the bitter end.

But the Tigers’ final offensive drive culminated in a bobbled snap recovered on third down and a sack on fourth as the visiting Wolfpack escaped Chris Hunter Stadium with a 14-13 victory Friday.

“We just didn’t do the little things. We didn’t execute the simple plays,” Tigers head coach Tommy Atha said. “We’ve got to tighten up the loose ends in all three phases.”

Caleb Lavallee’s 42-yard touchdown with 3:59 to play in the fourth quarter would go down as the game-winning score.

Two plays prior, a big flea-flicker pass was called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield, but not to be deterred, Whitefield Academy hit a 40-yard pass to Ayden Duncanson and then Lavallee broke tackles en route to the end zone.

After a scoreless and penalty-filled 20 minutes, Darlington finally broke the deadlock when D’Marion Floyd burst through the secondary, racing 40 yards to the end zone for a touchdown. With 3:42 to play before halftime, the Tigers led 7-0.

However, Whitefield Academy countered, as senior quarterback Cole Peterson led a long drive down the field before running back Caleb Lavallee capped it off with a 5-yard rushing score with just under 30 seconds to go before halftime.

A 50-minute lightning delay forced the players and fans from the field.

Darlington scored the first points of the second half when quarterback Jack Payne found Eli Thompson for a 60-yard touchdown late in the third quarter, but a missed PAT ultimately came back to bite the Tigers.

Thompson also recorded two interceptions, one of those coming in the opposing end zone for a touchback.

“He’s a really good player. We’re very excited to have him,” Atha said. “He’s going to continue to make plays all year. We have a lot of confidence in him and are looking forward to what he does throughout the season.”

Darlington travels to St. Francis next week while Whitefield Academy battles North Cobb Christian.

“We still have a lot of confidence in these guys, they have confidence in themselves, we’ve just got to tighten things up,” Atha said. “I think we’ll be a much-improved football team next week.”

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