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Eddy Zamora’s extra point finished off a double overtime thriller on Friday night at War Eagle Stadium, where Chestatee earned a 57-56 victory over the visiting Eastside Eagles.
“I was super nervous as I waited out there,” Zamora said of his final kick. “I knew I had to make it. It’s the Chestatee football way. Everyone does their part.”
Chestatee senior wide receiver Arthur Kelly caught a 15-yard, fourth-down pass from Jordan Degraff for the tying touchdown to set up Zamora’s winning kick.
“It had to be up there for at least 15 seconds,” Kelly said of the pass. “It felt like forever, waiting on it to come down.”
When asked what was going through his mind as the ball came closer to him, Arthur added, “I can catch it or drop it, but coach (Stan) Lutrell called my number so I knew I had to do.”
“He was wide open just like coach said he would be, but I didn’t see any of it,” Degraff said. “But I knew when the crowd roared that Kelly had caught the ball.”
Degraff was a victim of a roughing-the-passer penalty by Eastside, which the War Eagles declined.
The first quarter forshadowed what would be a great ending to the night. The teams combined for 277 yards on scoring plays alone.
AJ Sijiye scored on the War Eagles’ 12-play opening drive with a 40-yard touchdown scamper with 5:28 left in the first quarter. It was the first of a career-high three rushing touchdowns by Sijiye, who finished with 133 yards on 16 carries.
The Eagles responded as Jamal Hardge returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown, tying the game 11 seconds later.
Eastside’s William Gunn then returned an interception for a touchdown to take the lead less than a minute later.
Eastside’s kickoff went out of bounds, and three plays later, Chestatee answered with running back Quan Clark’s first rushing touchdown of the night from 65 yards, again tying the game.
Clark finished the night with a game-high 295 yards and added two more rushing touchdowns.
The back-and-forth scoring continued, and after two more long runs by each team, the first quarter ended with the game tied 21-21.
A 1-yard run from Degraff and a 46-yard rushing touchdown from Clark in the second put the War Eagles up by two touchdowns at halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Eagles started to chip away at the War Eagles’ lead.
Chestatee stopped Eastside on a fourth-and-21 play, but after a roughing-the-passer penalty, the Eagles had first-and-goal on the 6. Two plays later, Eastside scored with a 2-yard run from Jamondi Smith to cap a 15-play drive.
Jamondi Smith tallied a team-high 208 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries.
Eastside forced a Chestatee punt and scored on another long run from Jamondi Smith, a 61-yard dash up the middle.
Sijiye scored in the fourth quarter to give the War Eagles a 42-35 lead, but Eastside responded yet again with a 1-yard TD run from Alex Smith.
The game was tied for the last 3:22 and the teams headed to overtime.
The War Eagles won the coin toss and took the ball. Sijiye scored his second touchdown of the night on an 8-yard run. The two-point conversion put Chestatee up 50-42.
“Our coaches work with us and we have to trust them.” Sijiye said.
Eastside scored on each of its overtime possessions on 8- and 15-yard runs by Alex Smith and Jamondi Smith, respectively. It tied the game with a 2-point conversion on the first, but failed to convert on the second and led by six.
The War Eagles sputtered on their first three plays on offense in the second overtime and set up a fourth-and-10 on the 15.
Chestatee called timeout, where coach Lutrell told Kelly he would be open in the back corner of the end zone.
“Coach told me to keep blocking and they would call your number,” Kelly said.
“Kelly is a playmaker, who works hard, who has grown and matured in this system.” Lutrell said. “I knew that he was going to make the play.”
Kelly executed his wheel route to perfection. Degraff launched a prayer from the 20 and, “the ball hung in the air forever,” he said of his pass.
“I don’t know how it got there, but either way, however it did, it fell into his hands.” Sijiye said of Arthur’s catch.
“I am just glad it is over and we are coming out on top.” Lutrell said. “Eastside is a school with a rich tradition and this will send a strong message to the rest of the teams in our new region.”
Chestatee travels to Stephens County next Friday.