Teams with high hopes need wins like the Stallions got on the road Saturday.
Against a 4-8 Tallahassee team, American Conference-leading Augusta rallied from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit and defeated the Thunder 56-54 on Chris Chambers' 28-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining. With the win, Augusta clinched a playoff berth.
"Sometimes your team has to find a way to win a football game," Augusta head coach Mike Neu said. "I'm not taking anything away from Tallahassee. They're not a 4-8 football team. They're much better than that, especially offensively.
"We were on the road and there were a lot of things going against us and we found a way to get a win. Championship teams have to have wins like that along the way."
The Stallions (10-3) trailed 41-32 in the fourth quarter, but Aaron Sparrow hit R.J. Anderson on a 39-yard touchdown pass and cut the lead to two. Then Augusta got a huge break.
Chambers' ensuing kickoff caromed off the net, bounced twice on the turf between a pair of Thunder returners and was recovered on the Tallahassee 3 by Calvin Ceaser, who went in for the touchdown.
"We had a short week of practice, so there was kind of a sense of urgency," offensivedefensive lineman A.J. Blum said. "We were put in a situation we haven't been in this season. Our backs were against the wall. When you're thrown in the fire with the guys, you find out who wants to make plays and who doesn't."
The Stallions now shift their focus to Saturday night's game, when they play host to the Carolina Rhinos (8-5) at 7:30 p.m.
There's bad blood between the teams because of a preseason scrimmage. During the scrimmage, the quarterbacks were off-limits. However, after a couple of hits on Sparrow, Neu gathered up his troops and left.
"We have a little rivalry going with them which started during the scrimmage," Blum said. "They took some unnecessary hits on our quarterback and there were some words exchanged. We've been trying to put that on the back burner, but this week it's good because we can talk about it. A lot of the guys are looking forward to (the game)."
Said Neu: "All we know is the last time we saw Carolina they knocked our quarterback down and we got on the bus. We're going to be very excited and ready to go when Carolina comes to town."
Stallions officials expect one of their larger crowds of the season, since this will be the first home game not played on a holiday weekend. A possible sellout couldn't come at a better time for Augusta, because Carolina will have several busloads of fans at the game.
"We've played on some unfortunate weekends when there's been some other things going on," Neu said. "Hopefully, we'll get the community out and hopefully we'll have our first sellout. I'm confident they'll be back if they come this weekend."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.