Originally created 09/30/00

Commerce 16, Lincoln County 15



COMMERCE, Ga. -- Casey Gary isn't used to being in the spotlight. So it was understandable that the senior kicker was nervous when he was called on with 9.4 seconds left in Friday night's game with Lincoln County for a potential game-winning field goal.

And being nervous and uncomfortable, Gary missed.

He unashamedly admitted that he "shanked" the 46-yard kick, leaving it nearly 15 yards of the goal posts.

Luckily, he had a second shot and that time, he was a bit more comfortable.

After missing his first attempt, Gary made good on a 31-yard field goal as time expired to give Commerce a 16-15 win that will have its town's residents talking for weeks.

Gary missed the first kick, but was given a second opportunity after he was hit following the attempt. The Red Devils were penalized 15 yards for roughing the kicker and the Tigers breathed new life with 2.3 seconds on the clock.

"I just missed that first one but one of (Lincoln County's) guys just nailed me in my leg afterward," Gary said. "I felt a little bit more comfortable a little bit closer than I did from that first time. Man, I've never been that nervous in my life."

Gary's kick into infamy capped off a furious Commerce fourth-quarter rally as the Tigers roared back for a 15-0 deficit in the final period for the win. Key to the Tigers' success was the play of its two offensive stars, Monte Williams and Michael Collins.

The pair were crippled by the Red Devils' defense in the first half, extending a drought the duo had struggled through back to last year's Class A state semifinals in the Georgia Dome.

After the Red Devils made a few adjustments in the second half last year, they streaked out to a 35-21 win that ended Commerce's unbeaten season.

Friday night at Tiger Stadium, Williams and Collins answered the call.

The playbook was simple -- toss sweep to Williams and quarterback draws by Collins. The message was clear -- if you're going to beat us, you'll have to stop us. Lincoln County failed.

"We tried to run that in the first half some, but they were just having somebody tail me in the first half," Williams said. "We just decided to bring it at them in the fourth quarter. We gave it to them, and they weren't ready."

Held to 35 yards in the first half on 10 carries, Williams tallied 102 in the second half averaging 9.2 yards a carry. He was even more lethal in the fourth quarter rushing for 82 yards and scoring the Tigers' first touchdown.

That score came on an acrobatic 22-yard run in which the shifty senior refused to go down. He weaved in and out of Lincoln County defenders and was able to balance himself on the ground with his hands before straightening himself at the 15-yard line and streaking into the end zone.

After that run, one could almost sense the momentum shift.

"They scored on two plays," Collins said of Lincoln County's touchdowns, two long runs that resulted from blown Commerce coverage. "The ball game is much more than two plays. We knew that and we just had to keep our heads in there and we knew that we could pull it out."

Collins scored on a 1-yard plunge with 5:42 remaining in the game to pull the Tigers within two points at 15-13 and then the defense rose up, halting the Red Devils again.

With no timeouts and only two minutes on the clock, Collins and Williams drove the ball to the Red Devils' 22-yard line before penalties pushed them back into the 46-yard field goal.

Then, Gary came on and Commerce's losing streak to the Red Devils was over.

This is only a regular season contest, and holds no bearing on either team's standing in their respective regions. It's an exciting win, but doesn't amount to anything more than pride. Williams knows that.

"There's a lot of football left this year," he said. "But tonight we're going to celebrate, and Monday we're going to come to practice and start it all over again."