By Doug Gorman
When Eagle's Landing head coach Bob Stinchcomb was getting ready for the 2003 football season, freshman place kicker Evan Kay didn't figure into the plans.
Saturday night, he was a football hero, booting two late fourth-quarter field goals of 27 and 28 yards to help lift the Golden Eagles to a dramatic 27-24 victory against rival Henry County in a Region 2-AAAAA contest.
The loss was Henry County's 19th in a row.
Both of Henry County's losses have been by a combined four points as they lost to Union Grove by one.
Kay's two field goals were part of Eagle's Landing's dramatic second-half comeback sparked by the Golden Eagles' special teams.
Trailing 21-14 with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter, punt returner Adarius O'Neal took the ball on a reverse and outran the Henry County defense for a 70-yard touchdown. The extra point tied the game at 21.
Kay entered the season with two field goal kickers listed ahead of him on the depth chart, but when they were told they were in the new Luella High School district, the young freshman won the job by default.
"He doesn't care about the laces or where the ball is put down, he just wants go out and kick," said Stinchcomb. "We were a little worried about playing a freshman kicker, but we talked it over with his family, and we knew he could handle it."
Kay was just glad he came through against one of the school's biggest rivals.
"I wasn't expecting to even be kicking on the varsity this year this year," said Kay. "I hit them both really solidly and knew both were going to be good. It feels great to be able to beat Henry County."
After Kay's first field goal, Henry County marched right back down field. Henry County answered Kay's field goal with a field goal of its own.
After being forced to punt on its first two series of the second half, Henry County finally got its offense moving late in the fourth quarter. Then with 1:03 remaining in the game, Chris Clark displayed his powerful foot, splitting the uprights on a 42-yard kick to tie the game at 24.
Eagle's Landing took just one play to steal the Warhawks' thunder. Instead of electing to run out the clock and take their chances in overtime, offensive coordinator Bob Smith and Stinchcomb elected to air the football out.
Johnny Thompson caught quarterback Marcus Williams' 70-yard pass down around the 10, setting up Kay's game winner.
In the first half, it appeared Henry County was going to end the streak that has now stretched into part of three seasons.
Henry County quarterback Michael Rozier was 10-of-12 for 131 yards in the first half and the Warhawks' offense was moving.
After falling behind 7-0 after O'Neal caught Marcus Williams' 84-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, Henry County put together one of its best series of the night.
Keeping the ball primarily on the ground, Rozier mixed in a couple of passes, including a 17-yard pass to Dion Moore and an 8-yard pass to Lewis McCollum.
That set up McCollum's 2-yard touchdown run. The 2-point conversion failed and Eagle's Landing lead 7-6.
On its first play from scrimmage to start the next drive, Eagle's Landing again found the end zone. This time it was Drew Glen doing the damage, finding the end zone on a 69-yard rush. The extra point gave Eagle's Landing a 14-6 lead.
The offensive showdown continued as Henry County scored on its next series. This time the Warhawks scored through the air as Rozier connected with Daryl Simmons in the corner of the end zone on a 37-yard TD pass. Henry County added the 2-point conversion and the game was tied at 14.
McCollum gave Henry County a huge boost with 11 seconds remaining in half on a 13-yard touchdown run. After the extra point, Henry led 21-14.
"This was a great football game," said Stinchcomb. "It was one of those games that could have gone either way. Henry County has a good football team and they are going to win some games before it's all over with."
Eagle's Landing returns to action on the road at Houston County. Henry County plays Sept. 26 at Westside Macon.
"This is a great way for us to go into our fall break next week," said Stinchcomb.