The plan was to erase the memory of last year’s triple overtime loss to Bainbridge in the Class AAAAA championship game. To replace it with something else.
Unfortunately for Warner Robins, that something else was this year’s 17-14 overtime loss to Buford.
The Wolves were trailing 14-7 and had just turned the ball over to the Demons on downs when Ripley’s Believe it or Not began to unfold. The clock read 5:48. Warner Robins took over and ran one play for two yards. On the next, Jalen Addie – a stellar night running the ball with more than 100 yards – hit Marcayll Jones on a long pass. He took a few steps and then disaster: The ball was stripped.
Buford recovered and with 4:59 remaining, and on the hopes of sophomore quarterback Ashton Daniels – inserted near the end of the third quarter – put together a 14-play drive to tie the ballgame. The unbelievable came on a 22-yard pass to Jamarius Isaac in the endzone. The point after was made with 27 seconds remaining.
The Demons did string together four plays before time ran out and attempted a 50-yard field goal, but it was well wide.
That brought overtime – and no doubt some flashbacks from fans – into view.
The Wolves won the coin toss. They elected to defend – with each getting a chance on the 15 in the first extra period. Defend they did. On Warner Robins’ third play from scrimmage, Isaac intercepted Addie.
Buford then took its turn. It ran two plays before sending in Hayden Olsen. He hit the game-winning field goal from 24 yards out.
Let the nightmare of being trapped in heartbreak hotel with no way out begin.
The first half was all about the defenses. Each shrugged off the fact their counterpart came in averaging 35 points a game to limit them to a score each.
The Wolves’ was aided by a fumble recovery – another strip, this time on Addie. It was recovered on the 20. Six plays and nearly three minutes later, Gabe Ervin ran it in from the 1. That was with 3:20 left in the first.
The Demons did manage to produce nearly twice as much offense as Buford in the first half. They put up 121 yards – 105 on the ground and 16 in the air. The Wolves had 65 – 36 rushing and 29 passing.
Sixty of Warner Robins’ came on the last possession of the first half when it put together 12 plays and scored on a one-yard run by Ahmed Walker. Walker, by the way, was a beast on defense. He had 10 tackles – that was just late in the ballgame, he may have had more – at least two sacks and several quarterback hurries.
Both punted three times in the first half. Buford started the second half the same way.
The Demons, taking their cue from Ty Carr’s 57-yard punt return, scored on their first possession. Carr got it to the 12. Addie finished it off from there.
What followed were three more punts by the Wolves and two by Warner Robins before it ran six plays – Addie has his 126th yard on that drive – before missing a 24-yard field. (The total yards ended up being pretty even: 275 for Warner Robins, 254 for Buford.)
That led to the aforementioned stunning turn of events and the end of the Demons’ year.
Without a shadow of a doubt it was a phenomenal one, with memories of four dominating playoff wins, another Region 1-AAAAA championship in the trophy case, wins over Northside, Houston County and Veterans, and a 13-2 record.