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Sweet Water falls just short

SWEET WATER-If you asked a Sweet Water High School fan if they lost Friday night’s game with Thomasville they would probably reply “No. We just ran out of time.” They would be right.

The Sweet Water Bulldogs fell just short on opening night 20-13 to their archrival Thomasville. However, the Bulldogs led most of the game and were in position to win on their last drive.

After Thomasville took the lead with 1:18 remaining in the game the Bulldogs took the kickoff and began to roll down the field. The Bulldogs completed back to back passes and found themselves at the Thomasville 34 yard line with less than a minute to play. However, back-to-back sacks from the Thomasville defense sent the Bulldogs back to midfield and ended the threat.

Despite the heartbreaking loss the Bulldogs were able to take several positives from the game. Sweet Water Coach Stacy Luker said he had asked his players to leave it all on the field and they responded.

“I asked them before the game to play hard and they did it,” Luker said. “I told them to play as hard as they could and we could live with whatever happened.”

Playing the number 10 team of 4-A down to the wire would leave most 1-A coaches content. However, Sweet Water isn’t just some 1-A school and Luker said there were no moral victories. He said they would use the loss to grow as a team and learn to win the close ones.

“We aren’t happy by any means,” Luker said. “I promise you that, but we are going to get into situations like that again and we are going to win them.”

The Bulldogs came out of the gate ready for battle. After forcing a three and out for Thomasville, Sweet Water took their opening possession and grounded out a beautiful 16 play 58 yard drive. During the drive the Bulldogs converted two fourth down plays, one of which was a Deon Williams run that gave them the ball at the 10 yard line. Two plays later Dominic Holt crashed in for a 3 yard score to give Sweet Water a 6-0 lead with 1:35 remaining in the first. The point after would fail leaving the Bulldogs up 6-0.

As quickly as the lead came it went away. On their next play from scrimmage Thomasville’s Shamus Hudson blew through the Sweet Water defense for a 74-yard touchdown. However, the Tigers point after would also fail leaving the game tied 6-6.

That is how the first period would end.

On the Tigers next possession they would find the goal line again. However, this time they would have to work for it. Thomasville slowly drove deep into Sweet Water territory with quarterback Jake Overstreet finding Darrel Jackson on a 7-yard slant route to put the Tigers up 12-6 with 4:25 remaining in the half. Again, the PAT failed leaving the door open for Sweet Water to take the lead.

The Bulldogs were unable to open that door until about midway through the third quarter. A Deon Williams interception put the Bulldogs at the Thomasville 38 and gave them the momentum they needed to awaken their offense. Williams would start and end the drive with big plays as he found Drew Luker streaking behind Thomasville’s defensive backfield on the seventh play for a 27-yard scoring strike to tie the game 12-12. This time the PAT by Jeremy Tucker would fly right down the middle giving the Bulldogs a 13-12 lead they would hold until the final minutes.

Thomasville had a golden opportunity early in the fourth as they marched to the Bulldog 12 yard line. However, the Bulldog defense swatted away passes and kept Overstreet on the ground to force a turnover on downs.

The stage was set for Sweet Water to grind out another drive and run out the clock, but Thomasville had other ideas. The Tigers forced a Sweet Water punt and proceeded to march 79 yards for the winning score. Thomasville drove to the Sweet Water 11 yard line where Overstreet would take the ball around left in for the game winning score with 1:18 left on the clock. Dexter Locket plunged in for the two-point conversion to put the final points on the board for the Tigers.

Throughout the night Thomasville was able to keep fresh players on the field. Luker said they knew numbers would be in favor of the Tigers, but felt they were up to the task.

“We knew coming into the game they would have more players than us,” Luker said. “We felt like coming into the game we were ready to step up to that and we did. We played a good 4-A football team and we had a chance to win it in the fourth quarter and that is all we can ask of them.”

The Bulldogs will step into region play next week when the travel to Akron. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.