SWEET WATER — Two teams. Two classic battles. One team advances.
Washington County High School avenged a 20-6 midseason loss to Sweet Water High with a 41-33 victory Friday night, propelling WCHS to the Class 2A state championship game and ending Sweet Water’s first season in 2A at 11-3.
“They made one more play than we did, I guess,” Sweet Water head coach Stacy Luker said. “They are a great football team. But our guys didn’t quit. I thought Washington County handed us a knockout punch numerous times, but our kids have heart. We just needed a stop and couldn’t get a stop.”
Sweet Water found itself with an opportunity to tie the game late when it took over possession at its own 20 with 3:52 to play in the game. The home Bulldogs’ best chance to turn the game ended only two plays later when Lavonte Boman climbed the ladder to intercept a downfield heave and give his team a chance to run the clock out.
Washington County started the possession on a toss to Tyrone Kidd, who pushed a mob of would-be tacklers down the sideline for a 38-yard run to essentially ice the game.
Sweet Water got the ball back one final time with 10.3 seconds to play but could muster only 13 yards before time ran out on its quest for its first 2A Blue Map.
“We didn’t quit, They put us on the ropes. I thought they threw a knockout punch numerous times, but we showed a lot of character, a lot of heart, a lot of resiliency, kept fighting,” Luker said.
Sweet Water opened the scoring late in the first quarter with a 12-yard touchdown strike from Brett Davis to Demarcus Gamble. On the next play from scrimmage, Kidd went 78 yards to answer and put WCHS down 7-6.
Washington County took a lead it would never relinquish midway through the second quarter when DeAnthony Holcombe punched the ball in from two yards out to cap a six-play, 64-yard drive that was anchored by a 59-yard Kidd scamper.
Sweet Water answered with a big play threat of its own just five plays later when Jakoby Aldridge popped around the left side and darted 59 yards for the score. A failed extra point try left Washington County up 14-13.
Washington County answered on the next possession when it covered 67 yards in eight plays, culminating the march with a 31-yard scoring run from Holcombe. WCHS preserved the 21-13 advantage when Boman made an acrobatic interception at his own nine on Sweet Water’s final play of the half.
SWHS capitalized on its first possession of the third quarter with a four-play, 56-yard drive that cut the game to 21-19 when Deion Watters broke a 46-yard touchdown run.
Kidd, who finished the night with 337 yards on 16 carries, again wasted little time answering when he sprinted 54 yards to paydirt only two plays later to stretch the WCHS advantage back to two possessions.
Sweet Water responded with a seven-play, 54-yard march that ended when Davis hit Gamble for a 14-yard touchdown pass. The Taylor Wilson PAT left Sweet Water down 28-26.
Five plays later, Kidd electrified the visiting stands again when he broke a 48-yard touchdown run to up the lead to 35-26.
Sweet Water responded one more time as Daniel Sewell sprinted around the right side for a 36-yard scoring run.
Sweet Water finally got the defensive stop it needed with 8:43 to go in the game. However, the Bulldogs proved unable to take advantage, finishing their drive a yard shy of the sticks.
WCHS countered with one final blow, a strike that came in the form of a 26-yard touchdown pass from Dane Howard to Kerri Pennington with only 4:45 to go in the game.
“They’ve been to three semi-finals and a state championship,” Luker said of his outgoing senior class. “Right now, that doesn’t seem like much to them, but 10 years from now it will.”
Aldridge finished with 122 yards on 18 carries for Sweet Water. Watters added 92 yards on 12 carries.
Watchman managing partner Danny Smith contributed to this report.