As they waited out the nearly two-hour lightning delay in the locker room Friday night, Chestatee coach Shaun Conley’s assistants lamented the circumstances.
“Man, you’re snakebitten,” they told their first-year coach.
The War Eagles didn’t win a game all last season and came within a touchdown of doing so against North Hall last week. So when inclement weather suspended play just seconds after Chestatee stole the momentum back from East Hall with a 62-yard touchdown pass, it looked like more of the same.
That wasn’t the case. The War Eagles held on to win the cross-county contest 23-21 in a game shortened by an 11:30 p.m. curfew mandated by the GHSA.
The final whistle sounded with 4:26 seconds left in the third quarter, eliciting a celebration on the Chestatee sideline that soon spilled over to the contingent of fans who waited out the lightning.
“It is huge for our program,” a visibly emotional Conley said. “These guys have been through a lot, and I’m happy for them.”
Chestatee’s first drive nearly went awry when the Vikings (0-2) recovered junior quarterback Storm Yarbrough’s backward pass. But officials whistled East Hall for 12 men on the field, negating the fumble recovery and leading to a 30-yard field goal from junior Steven Martinez-Ramirez.
Parker led the Vikings right down the field with three huge passes, setting up junior running back Deon Ellison’s 20-yard scoring scamper.
The War Eagles (1-1) wasted no time responding as junior running back Nick Lyles turned a flare pass into a 62-yard touchdown with 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Then officials enacted the lightning delay just as the opening period ended, sending both teams to their respective locker rooms. After a nearly two-hour delay, the teams resumed the game at 10:03 p.m.
“I talk to our kids all the time about, we’ve got to control the things we can control,” Conley said. “We talked to them about that there in the dressing room. And when we came out, we said it was one of those things we have no control over.”
Both offenses struggled after the delay, even when a fumbled snap gave Chestatee the ball on the Vikings’ 40-yard line. Parker, who was intending to punt, appeared to injure his throwing arm diving for the loose ball.
The War Eagles squandered that opportunity before East Hall opted to go for it on fourth-and-6 in the red zone instead of kicking a field goal, only to have Parker get sacked.
Lyles, who finished with 134 yards on 18 carries, put the War Eagles ahead 17-7 and reignited the game on a 47-yard touchdown run with less than three minutes remaining in the first half. East Hall responded with a long drive that ended with Parker finding junior receiver Austin Brock for a 12-yard score.
Vikings senior receiver Markese Jackson started the second half at quarterback, engineering a touchdown drive that featured a fourth-down conversion and a 27-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw.
But Yarbrough one-upped his counterpart on the very next drive, slipping out of a sack on fourth-and-8 before heaving a 40-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Charles Jackson. A fake punt on fourth down earlier in the drive set up the touchdown, which was followed by a fumbled snap on the point-after.
“Storm’s very athletic. ... Sometimes that just happens,” Conley said. “He scrambles around and finds a way to make a play. I’m just glad it happened.”
East Hall had one last chance to take the lead before the curfew took effect, but it couldn’t convert a fourth-and-32 from its own 20-yard line.