Hephzibah's Rent Sherill made sure the third time was the charm.
The senior running back returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and took a kickoff back 84 yards for a score in the third quarter, only to have both nullified by penalties.
So when the Rebels needed a big play late in Friday night's Region 3-AAAA matchup with Jones County, Sherill delivered yet again, taking a punt 44 yards for the go-ahead score as Hephzibah pulled out a 20-6 victory over the Greyhounds at Rebel Field.
The Rebels, coming off a 28-7 loss at Statesboro a week ago, got off to an auspicious start when tailback Reggie Hughes fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. Turnovers continued to plague the Rebels (3-1, 1-1), who lost four fumbles, including each of their first two possessions, and threw a pair of interceptions.
"We still have got to do a better job of taking care of the ball," Hephzibah head coach Todd Booker said. "You can talk about it all you want to, but until you prove you can hold on to it, it's going to be a concern. I don't know how much more we can emphasize it than we already have."
While the Hephzibah offense struggled much of the game, its defense kept the opposition out of the end zone for the second time in three weeks. The Rebels held Jones County to just 139 total yards, including just 57 in the second half.
After trailing 3-0 at halftime, it took a play from the defense to get the Rebels on the scoreboard. Junior defensive back Bruce Lee's 18-yard interception return for a touchdown at the 7:03 mark gave Hephzibah its first lead of the game at 6-3. Lee's heroics came just three plays after Jones County stopped a Rebels drive at the Greyhounds' 14-yard line on Brandon Ammons' second interception of the night.
The Rebels dodged a pair of bullets when Hughes and quarterback Robert Hannah fumbled on consecutive possessions early in the fourth quarter. Jones County capitalized on the second turnover, tying the game on Todd Hartley's 30-yard field goal.
Sherill took the ensuing kickoff to the end zone, but the play was negated on a clip. Five plays later, the Rebels stalled and were forced to punt.
Hughes then unloaded, blasting a 58-yard punt that backed Jones County up to its own three-yard line.
"That was the turning point in the game," Booker said. "Reggie's punt put them in terrible field position. I thought if we could hold them there, we had a chance. We overcame a lot of adversity tonight and that's something we can hang our hat on and be very proud of. Nothing seemed like it was going our way. We?re weren?t getting the breaks, but our defense and our special teams kept us in the game.'
Three running plays netted the Greyhounds just seven yards, forcing their eighth and final punt of the night. Sherrill fielded Jason Tyler's line-drive punt at the Jones County 44, sprinted to his left and followed his wall of blockers down the Hephzibah sideline for the go-ahead touchdown.
After the visitors turned the ball over on downs, sophomore Quantavius Franklin added a late 17-yard scoring run up the middle with to ice the game with 1:12 left.
First Downs 1818
Total Yards 139212
Fumbles Lost 2-24-4
Jones County 0 3 0 3 - 6
Hephzibah 0 0 6 14 - 20
Second Quarter JC - Jason Tyler 26 FG
Third Quarter H - Bruce Lee 18 interception return (kick failed)
Fourth Quarter JC - Todd Hartley 30 FG
H - Rent Sherrill 44 punt return (Richard Barry kick)
H - Quantavius Franklin 17 run (Barry kick)
RUSHING-Jones County: Roy Robertson 10-45, Marcus Pace 11-32, Jason Tyler 8-18. Hephzibah: Reggie Hughes 6-39, Eric Brown 3-31, Robert Hannah 12-27.
PASSING-Jones County: Todd Hartley 5-9-0-14, Tyler 0-2-1-0. Hephzibah: Hannah 4-7-2-86.
RECEIVING- Jones County: Pace 4-9, Tyler 1-6, Roberson 1-5 Hephzibah: Lascelles Bembry 2-62, Sherill 2-24.
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