Starting the fourth quarter with a 13-point lead, the Chestatee War Eagles were 12 minutes away from their first six-game win streak in school history and remaining undefeated in region play Friday night.
However, little did they know the Lanier Longhorns weren’t going down without a fight, and they’d wind up in overtime before Chestatee prevailed, 43-36.
The War Eagles (6-1, 4-0) indeed have their six-game streak and are 2-0 in overtime games this season.
The Longhorns (3-4, 1-3) erased a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter, outscoring Chestatee 22-9 in the quarter.
However, after Chestatee running back AJ Sijiye scored on a 5-yard run in overtime, Chestatee’s Kyle Perry intercepted a Longhorns’ pass to end the game.
“We expected a tough game. Lanier has played everyone tough on their schedule,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “They’ve been in close games all year long. Coach (Billy) Wells is doing a great job over there, building that program, and they came ready to play tonight.”
The War Eagles were led by running backs Brandon Thompson and Quan Clark. Thompson rushed for a game-high 155 yards and two touchdowns. Clark rushed for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
Chestatee defensive back Tommy McCormack recorded two interceptions.
The Longhorns were led by quarterback Taylor Grant who went 10-for-25 passing for a game-high 271 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for one touchdown.
Lanier wide receiver Jahbril Jones hauled in five catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Marty Sanders caught three passes for 134 yards and one touchdown.
“Our kids have done a tremendous job all year about staying in it and staying engaged and always believing they have a chance,” Wells said. “Taylor has done a tremendous job for us all season. He’s an intelligent kid, academically and on the field, and certainly helps to have that. He brings a certain amount of poise to the position (quarterback).”
The Longhorns’ offense put up the first points of the night. After Grant found Sanders for 52-yard reception, running back Tario Fuller capped off the drive, scoring on a 5-yard run with 6:30 left in the first quarter.
Then, the Longhorns’ defense created chaos on Chestatee’s next possession, forcing a fumble recovered by Izzy Sam. However, the offense couldn’t duplicate its opening drive and was forced to punt.
On the War Eagles’ next possession, Thompson galloped 80 yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 7-7 with 2:51 left in the quarter.
The Longhorns answered, taking six minutes off the clock. Grant led the offense downfield, including connecting with senior wide receiver Austin Westfall on a third-and-15 to keep the drive alive.
Then, Grant found Jones on a 10-yard touchdown catch, giving the Longhorns a 14-7 lead with 7:37 left in the first half.
The War Eagles rallied when Clark scored on a 16-yard run, cutting the Longhorns lead to 14-13 at the half.
Chestatee kept their momentum rolling, racking up 13 points in the third quarter. Thompson scored his second touchdown of the night on a 63-yard run, and quarterback Jordan Degraff scored his only touchdown of the evening on a 15-yard run.
Grant scored three of his touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He connected with Jones for a 40-yard touchdown, their second of the night.
Then, he found Sanders for a 65-yard touchdown. On their final drive, it took only five plays for the Longhorns to go 60-plus yards, and Grant capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run.
In between the touchdowns, Clark had his second for Chestatee, and kicker Jose Zamora booted a 28-yard field goal that tied the game and sent it to overtime.
“I’m just so proud of our boys, and the way they didn’t give up. They made the plays they had to make to win,” Luttrell said. “Adversity stared them in the face many times in the fourth quarter and overtime, and they made it happen.”
Next week, Chestatee travels to Lumpkin County, while Lanier travels to Stephens County.