By Bob Jones
Special to the Daily
The Stockbridge Tigers had already accomplished a huge milestone, clinching a playoff spot, but another goal was within reach.
The undefeated Sandy Creek Patriots and their 23-game winning streak came to Stockbridge for the final regular season game of the 2010 season.
Stockbridge (6-4, 5-3 in 4-AAA) frightened Sandy Creek (10-0, 8-0) right to the end, but the Patriots prevailed 38-26, preserving their undefeated season.
Sandy Creek had already clinched the top seed in 4-AAA and Stockbridge needed a win and an Eastside loss to advance to the third seed. However, the Tigers and Coach Kevin Whitley are thrilled with the accomplishment of a playoff berth.
It was the three-headed running attack of Sandy Creek that wore down Stockbridge. Derrick Alexander rushed 12 times for 90 yards and one touchdown. C.J. Washington punished the middle of the Tiger defense 8 times for 66 yards. Mike Hilton ran 11 times for 105 yards and two scores. Hilton added an opening kickoff return of 81 yards, setting up Sandy Creek's first score.
It looked as if it was going to be a high-scoring contest in the first as each team scored on its first two touches. The Patriots needed only to go 11 yards in three plays after Hilton's return, scoring on a 1-yard plunge by Hilton. Place kicker Mitchell McMillan was perfect on five PATs, and he added a 34-yard field goal in the second. Stockbridge answered three minutes later on a 4-yard run by Marcellas Pope. Sandy Creek, undaunted by the Tigers' success, needed just three minutes to score on a 7-yard pass from Ronnie Bell to Washington.
Marquez Hodo gave the Tigers a huge lift with a 74-yard kickoff return to the Patriot 17, and quarterback Leon Prundy took it in from the four for a 14-12 score at the end of one. The second was much quieter, especially after Sharon Anthony intercepted a Bell pass deep in Tiger territory late in the first. McMillan's field goal left the score at 17-12 at intermission.
The Tigers came out with fire in the third, marching 65 yards in six plays, taking the lead on a Prundy-to-Hodo 41-yard pass play. Prundy ran in the two-point conversion, and the undefeated Patriots were running scared, trailing 20-17. T
hat, however, was the wakeup call Sandy Creek needed. The Patriots had two touchdowns late in the third, and nearly had another early in the fourth, except for Warren Johnson's recovery of a Bell fumble in the Tigers red zone. Prundy failed to convert the opportunity, tossing his second interception of the half. Hilton then iced the victory with a 62-yard sprint for the lead at 38-20.
Stockbridge did not give up, converting a fourth and long in the own territory and taking the play to Sandy Creek.
With 30 seconds left, Prundy threw a fade into the end zone for Emmanuel McKissick who made a nice catch to make the score 38-26. Stockbridge failed on a third PAT conversion, and the game was over.
In addition to the efforts of Alexander, Washington, and Hilton running the ball, Bell amassed 127 total yards (89 passing and 38 running). Sandy Creek's defense was led by Jamel Gilliam with nine tackles, Jamal Ware (7), and Gavin Rocker (6).
Prunty attempted 17 second half passes, and finished the game with 8 completions out of 19 tosses for 141 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks. He also ran 13 times for 60 yards. Pope ran four times for 52 yards, and Jayshun Allen rushed 7 times for 73 yards. Corey Hall was Stockbridge's leading tackler with 11 stops.
In other games:
Ola 21, Harris County 14: The Ola Mustangs closed out their season with a 4-6 record Friday night thanks to a victory against Harris County.
Ola built a 21-0 lead and then held off Harris County.
Jo Jo span had a fumble recovery and two interceptions to pace the victory.