By Doug Gorman
All signs pointed towards the seventh grade middle school championship football game between Henry County and Ola heading to overtime.
After all, the game was tied at 14-all with the clock counting down toward all zeros and Henry County still 51 yards away from striking pay dirt.
But overtime wasn't good enough for Henry County running back Tarez Miller. Miller took the hand-off from quarterback Marquez Souder, ran to his right, and then broke away from the Ola defense which was frantically trying to catch up and make the tackle.
Miller didn't stop until he was standing in the end zone after scoring the go-ahead touchdown with one second left.
Jordan Kemp tacked on the 2-point conversion to give the Hawks a 22-14 victory. Ola had one last attempt to return Henry County's squib kick, but the Hawks special teams made the tackle, putting an end to the dramatic championship contest.
"These kids dug down deep, and did what they had to do," said Henry County coach Troy Baker. "It was only the second time all year we have been behind, but they didn't get fazed at all."
It's the first seventh grade title for Henry County Middle School since the 1990s.
"It's going to be good to put up that championship banner again," Baker said. "That's something we take pride in."
Ola took control of the game early, using up all the first-quarter clock and scoring on a 16-play, 73-yard drive. Trey King then put the game's first points on the scoreboard when he carried the football into the end zone on a 1-yard scamper.
A 2-point conversion attempt by Unrico Sims made it 8-0,
Early in the second quarter, Henry County cut into the Ola lead when Souder called his own number and converted a short third-down play into a 36-yard touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed, and Ola took an 8-6 lead into the locker room at the half.
Ola built a 14-6 lead early in the third quarter when Carter Perkins came up big on defense, recovering a fumble and returning it 35 yards for the touchdown. The Mustangs missed the extra point, and led 14-6.
Miller returned the ensuing kickoff from the Henry County 27 to the Ola 34, giving the Hawks good field position.
They took advantage of it five plays later as Miller scored from near the goal line. Souder added the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14-all.
Henry County's game-winning drive started when it took over with less than a minute to go after stopping Ola on fourth down.
Ola coach Bruce Fowler was happy with the effort of his team, despite the gut-wrenching loss.
"They are the best group of boys," he said. "Since June they have been working. Not every boy gets to play, but everybody loves being part of this team. This is the best family, Ola football has ever had."