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Patriots fall short to Warriors 26-23

By Bob Jones

Special to the Daily

The Strong Rock Patriots learned during the week that they had been credited with their first-ever regional GHSA victory.

It was due to First Presbterian Day's using an ineligible player last week.

The Patriots (1-3-1, 1-1) nearly earned their first victory on the field, but fell just short, as Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy (1-3, 1-1 in 5S-A) edged the Patriots 26-23 in a disappointing thriller for Homecoming 2010.

The Warriors of Southwest Atlanta Christian tried very hard to give that first-ever on-the-field victory to Strong Rock, fumbling the football 14 times.

The bad news for the Patriots is that the Warriors only lost two of those bouncing fumbles.

The Warriors were also quite sloppy in execution, committing 15 penalties. Despite all of the Warriors' problems, the game remained close throughout, with five lead changes and the winning score coming with just 75 seconds to play.

The Patriots started out with a bit of the gambler spirit, going for a fourth and one in their own territory with less than two minutes gone in the first period. Coleman Smith was dropped for a three-yard loss by Fernando Carr, and the Warriors marched the ball in for the short-field TD, scoring on a 3-yard run by Savon Turney.

Strong Rock got on the board thanks to one of the 15 penalties on the Warriors. Quarterback Deon Jones was chased into his own end zone, and he intentionally grounded the ball for a Patriot safety.

Strong Rock's first TD came after the first recovered fumble, and freshman Josh Roberts blasted up the middle for three yards with less than two minutes left in the first. Kyle Jenning's PAT made it 9-6 Patriots.

Then the Warriors pulled off the first of two surprises against Strong Rock. The play was the halfback option pass, and Strong Rock bit on the run twice for long TD passes, damaging its chances to earn that win on the gridiron. Just before halftime Carr heaved a bomb to Cameron Kenan who was wide open. The 62-yard play made the score 12-9 SW Atlanta Christian at the half.

Collier Sanders intercepted a Warrior pass early in the third, and the Patriots scored on a well-executed quarterback keeper 44-yard run by Jesse Adams.

Surprise No. 2 was waiting around the corner. This time it was RB Damon Johnson who heaved the ball to Kenan for 41 yards. The Patriots had been burned twice, and trailed by four points after a PAT pass.

Early in the fourth Sanders rumbled 34 yards to the Warrior one then, two plays later jumped the pile for six points and another Patriot lead. The Patriot defense bent a little then held, but the offense managed only a three-and-out, returning the ball to the visitors with six minutes left. In the ensuing five-minute drive the Warriors fumbled five times, recovering the ball each time, and finally Jones capped it off with an 18-yard scamper with 1:15 left. The Patriots got the ball twice before the final horn, but each possession ended with an interception. Heart-breaking but that was the way the football bounced on this night.

For SW Atlanta Christian, Johnson rushed 21 times for 105 yards, returned two kickoffs for 71 yards, and threw a TD pass of 41 yards. If you're doing the math, that's 217 all-purpose yards. Ronnie Calhoun led the Warrior defense with 10 tackles.

Strong Rock's offensive leader was Sanders with 82 yards and a TD on 16 carries. Coleman Smith was everywhere on defense, making an eye-popping 18 tackles.