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High school football: Riverside Military Academy's Sean Whitley grabs game-sealing interception late to clinch win for West Team in 2019 FCA East West Football Classic
FCA director Clint Fair address both squads after the FCA East West Football Classic on Monday at Lynn Cottrell Field on Monday.

On a night when defense ruled over offense inside Lynn Cottrell Stadium, it was fitting that Monday’s 2019 FCA East West Classic ended on a turnover. 

Trailing 10-7 with less than a minute to play, East quarterback Ryte Woodruff of Habersham Central tossed a desperation heave across the middle of the field into the waiting arms of the West’s Sean Whitley out of Riverside Military — whose busy night at the Brickyard ended with the pick that sealed the 10-7 win for the West team.

“That was my dream come true,” Whitley said of the play. “I haven’t made a pick in a while. It was just amazing.”

In addition to the turnover, Whitley also kicked for both the East and the West teams, and was a perfect 3 for 3 on his one field goal and two PAT attempts on the game. He even connected on a 35-yard attempt during halftime that sent home a lucky raffle winner with free Chick-fil-A for a year. 

But even getting into field goal range was a struggle for both offenses as limited practice time together hampered drives throughout the contest. There were five mishandled snaps between the teams who combined to punt the ball 10 times and only completed 14 passes amongst themselves on the night.

“Considering only two days (of practice), it’s tough to get an offense going,” West and North Hall head coach David Bishop said. “Both sides struggled offensively. That’s to be expected.”

The West team scored its first 3 points of the game on its first possession when Whitley put through a 35-yard field goal following an Austin Sullens fumble recovery. Gainesville’s Dez Brown punched in a 4-yard touchdown run on the team’s next drive after another East fumble, and that was all the scoring the West team needed to finish off the win. 

The East’s Colby Clark tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the first half, but the second half consisted of five punts, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and three turnovers on downs that kept the scoring right where it was. 

But the night was much more about the experience than the final score. For players, cheerleaders, band members and parents, the game was the final one in several high school careers, a sendoff to the county’s best seniors at every position. 

“The kids had fun,” Bishop said. “I think the crowd enjoyed it here. We’ve got band parents here. It was awesome.”

It was the final chance for everyone to enjoy one more night under the Friday night lights (even if it was on a Monday), and it was an experience none of the participants will ever forget.

“This game meant a lot to me,” Whitley said. “It was a lot of the Christianity part of it. That was a big part of how I felt about this game. And just the thrill of being out here and playing ball again. It was just amazing.”

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