All week, Laney coach Eric Parker told his team - and anyone else who would listen - that Northeast-Macon was a big-time team with big-time players.
Parker's Wildcats aren't exactly small-time. They beat the Raiders 22-15 on Friday in the second round of the Class AAA playoffs, showing they might be headed for big things themselves.
Laney reeled off 22 straight points and weathered a late scare after Northeast-Macon pulled within a touchdown to improve to 11-1.
"When you get to the second round of the playoffs, you just have to grind it out," said Parker, whose team is a victory away from the Georgia Dome.
The Wildcats dominated the Raiders (9-3) in the second half, a testament to deft coaching adjustments and physical play up front that didn't appear possible in the first half.
Despite trailing 12-7 at halftime, Northeast-Macon seemed in control thanks to a defense that stifled Laney's running game. The Wildcats mustered minus-10 rushing yards in the first half, but ran right at the Raiders after intermission and finished with 80 yards on 37 carries.
On Laney's first possession of the second half, J.K. Sabb kicked a 25-yard field goal to cap a 15-play drive kept alive by two offsides penalties on Northeast-Macon - the second with the Wildcats prepared to punt on fourth-and-5 from the Raiders' 45-yard line.
Later in the third, Laney went ahead 22-7 on a three-play drive after a botched punt attempt by Northeast-Macon.
That wasn't the end of the suspense. Deep in Raiders territory with the game seemingly over, quarterback Dominique Walker threw a lazy pass to the right flat that was picked off by Terrance Wilmore and returned 87 yards for a touchdown with 3:38 to play.
"That was scary," Walker said of one of his few blemishes on an otherwise-stellar night.
It was even scarier when Jeremy Wiggins squeezed inside the right pylon for the two-point conversion to make the Wildcats' lead a mere seven points.
Laney went three and out on its next possession, and Northeast-Macon took over at its 49-yard line with 2:26 left, but Kendrick Gonder intercepted quarterback Benjamin Wilder on third-and-10 to end the threat and the game.
Walker was his team's only source of offense in the first half, completing 10 of his first 12 passes. His touchdown strikes to Curtis Sapp and Robert Dunn gave the Wildcats their halftime lead.
"I don't think he missed a read in the first half," said Parker, whose team plays the winner of Friday's game between Carrollton and Spalding. "For a sophomore, that's good."
LANEY 22, NORTHEAST-MACON 15
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org