SANDERSVILLE, Ga. - It's still four days until Halloween, but Washington County got a scare a few days early.
With the Golden Hawks holding a comfortable 14-point lead in the third quarter, Westside rallied for a touchdown with eight seconds left to cut the gap to two points. Alan Gregg's two-point conversion pass attempt hit the turf, and the Patriots suffered their first loss of the season, a 17-15 setback in the House of Pain.
Westside's loss gives Harlem, which beat Jefferson County 35-28 on Friday, first place in Region 3-AAA. Washington County (6-1 overall, 3-1 region) and Westside (6-1, 3-1) are tied for second.
The victory extended the Golden Hawks' home-winning streak to 13 games, while the school improved to 65-4 at home under coach Rick Tomberlin.
When the Golden Hawks tried to kill the final minutes, the plan backfired. With the Patriots out of timeouts and 27 seconds remaining, Washington County fumbled at the Westside 31.
Gregg connected with Tony LeZotte on a 50-yard bomb on the next play to move the ball to the Washington County 19. Then, Gregg found LeZotte in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown with eight seconds left.
However, a herd of Washington County linemen kept Gregg from a completing the two-point conversion pass that could have sent the game into overtime.
Westside failed on its onside kick attempt, and Golden Hawk fans could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"We didn't play that well in the first half, but I thought we came out in the second half and played well," said Westside's Tony LeZotte, who had four catches for 111 yards.
"Only letting them score three points in the second half was pretty good, but we gave up a couple of big plays. We didn't come out with the intensity in the first half that we should have."
Washington County scored the first touchdown on Westside's defense this season. The Patriots, which had allowed just a field goal entering the game, trailed 14-3 at halftime.
Obi Egekeze's 22-yard field goal with 37 seconds left in the first quarter gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead. However, Washington County answered on its ensuing drive with an 18-play, 80-yard scoring drive that culminated with Preston Smith's 1-yard plunge.
However, a critical Westside mistake almost put the game away in the second quarter. A Westside fumble at its own 19 gave the Golden Hawks a chance to tack on another touchdown before halftime. A halfback pass from Marlo East to Renaldo Walden made it 14-3.
Clem McDavid's 33-yard field goal made it 17-3 with 2:55 left in the third. However, Westside answered with a six-play, 68-yard drive , capped by 15-yard gallop from Keith Hogans, to cut the score to 17-9.
"We had a couple of opportunities where we didn't get the job done," said Westside coach Gerald Barnes. "After we dug ourselves in a hole, the guys did a great job of trying to get back in it."
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org