After leading most of the game, Evans rallied late for its first region championship in nine years.
Damekus Taylor tossed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Dedrick Holmes with 2:22 remaining and the Knights held on to defeat Heritage, 42-35 for the Region 3-AAAAAA title Friday night.
Evans (8-2) finished off a perfect 5-0 region slate and avenged last year’s loss at Heritage for the region title. The Knights scored 40 or more points for the ninth consecutive game.’
With the Evans win, Grovetown (6-4 overall, 4-1 region) grabbed the No. 2 seed and will get a home playoff game next week. The Warriors defeated Lakeside, 24-7.
Heritage fell to third in the region and will travel next week. The Patriots fell to 6-4 overall, 3-2 in region play.
Lakeside is the region’s No. 4 seed and will also travel in the first round.
Evans is a No. 1 seed after finding a way to slow down the potent Heritage passing attack that averaged more 300 yards a contest. The Knights picked off quarterback Caleb Pruitt four times, with Derrick Canteen and Corey Watkins returning interceptions for touchdowns in the second quarter as Evans bolted out to a 24-0 lead.
Pruitt got in a groove late in the first half and finished with 11 of 23 passing for 194 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 51 of Heritage’s 201 yards, adding a 2-yard run.
Taylor went 11 of 18 passing for 139 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also led the Knights with 84 rushing yards.
Taylor came up big when Evans needed him most. Heritage chipped away at the lead and eventually took a 35-34 lead with 8:33 to play on a 13-yard pass from Pruitt to Isaiah Martin.
Evans responded with a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive. On third and 5 from midfield, Taylor kept the ball on a 9-yard run. On third and 1 from the 31, he rushed for 7 yards. Then on third and 15 from the 29, Taylor found Holmes streaking open down the left side for the touchdown. Taylor then connected with Holmes on the two-point pass play.
On Heritage’s next drive, Jayden Simpkins crashed a route, making a diving interception to seal the victory.
Evans got on the board first with a 31-yard Max Tyler field goal. Then after Watkins scored on a 15-yard run, the Knights added the two pick-sixes.
Heritage got its first break when Chris Jones picked off a Taylor pass and returned it to the Evans 36 late in the first half. Seven plays later, Pruitt punched it in from the 2 for the Patriots’ first touchdown with 1:04 left before intermission.
Heritage then caught Evans off guard with an onside kick. On the second play, Devron Harper took a screen pass and scampered down the left sideline for a 46-yard touchdown.
Evans went into intermission up 24-14.