SNELLVILLE – Things could have turned out much differently for Colquitt County on Friday night at Brookwood Community Stadium. And in many respects, they probably should have.
Brookwood led 14-10 with under 10 second until halftime, but Colquitt County moved the football down to the Broncos 1-yard line and faced a third down. Packers running back Daijun Edwards took a direct snap and went nowhere. Head coach Rush Propst ran onto the field to call his third timeout, setting up a fourth-and-goal from the 1 with four seconds remaining. The offense came back onto the field and in a replay-like fashion, the Broncos stuffed the wildcat attempt again.
The Broncos had the lead and the momentum heading into the locker room, which easily could have translated to second-half dominance. But not for Propst’s resilient bunch.
“At halftime, there was a lot of mashing teeth, a lot of negativity. I told them we aren’t leaving here without winning a ball game, we’re not. I don’t care if we play it till 4 in the morning,” Propst said. “We are not leaving here until we win this football game.”
And they did. Colquitt County outscored Brookwood 21-0 in the second half and went on to win 31-14 to avenge an early-season loss to the Broncos and more importantly secure a spot in the Class AAAAAAA State Championship – the Packers first title berth since winning back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015.
“They came back on this field with a different mindset,” Propst said. “I challenged them about as hard as I have challenged a group in a long time.”
His Packers (11-3) responded to the challenge scoring two touchdowns in the first 4:13 of the third quarter
Despite being on the road for the fourth-straight playoff game, the offense quickly forgot about its short-yardage failure and moved swiftly down the field to score the go-ahead touchdown. Quarterback Steven Krajewski hit Marvion McDonald for a 24-yard score to put Colquitt ahead for good.
Then the Packers defense forced a three-and-out. And on the ensuing punt, junior Jay Ward came flying off the edge to block Angelo DiSpigna’s kick. Packers’ running back JT Leggett recovered the football in the end zone, giving Colquitt a 24-14 lead early in the second half.
“Ty Leggett has been telling me all week we can block one,” Propst said. “He’s a playmaker.”
The Broncos (11-3) made costly mistakes on their next three possessions, preventing them from erasing the deficit. Ward chased down a Brookwood receiver, forced a fumble and recovered it inside the Packers red zone. The Broncos then committed an illegal procedure penalty on fourth-and-2, which wiped out a fake punt, 59-yard touchdown. And finally, a four-minute drive in the fourth quarter ended with a missed 35-yard field goal.
Three plays later, Edwards bolted through the right side of the offensive line and raced 75 yards for a touchdown.
“I just kept telling myself to run faster,” Edwards said about the big scamper. “Our offensive line came along great today and we just ran right at them.”
The sophomore led the way for a Packers’ rushing attack that gained a total of 285 yards. Propst told his offense that if it ran for more than 275 yards the Packers would win the game. Edwards ran for 183 yards on 22 carries. Leggett added 67 yards and 1 rushing touchdown.
Brookwood’s ground game had similar success against Colquitt. The Broncos racked up 213 yards on the ground, including 166 yards on 23 carries for Dante Black. The senior scored Brookwood’s only two touchdowns of the game on runs of 4 yards and 1 yard.
Coach Propst said after the game this season has been a special one for him. The Packers are a junior-laden team and after losing their final two regular season games to Tift County and a double-overtime loss to Lowndes, he didn’t know if his squad would be mature enough to rebound and make a run.
He called all 40 juniors into his office after the Lowndes game and told them they could either go quietly in the playoffs or have a chance at be back-to-back State Champions. After four road playoff games in Atlanta, defeating three region-champions, and nearly 2,000 miles of travel, it’s apparent his players choose the latter. And now they will make the journey back to Atlanta one more time next weekend for a shot at the state title in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“What we did took a lot of intestinal fortitude. It takes a lot of attitude. It takes a lot of great things that we talk about when coaching that is a lot of times lip service,” Propst said. “This is special. I don’t know that I have ever been – I don’t think I have ever been around a group of players or a team that just did what we did. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”
Colquitt County will play North Gwinnett in the Class AAAAAAA State Championship. The Bulldogs, who won Region 6, defeated McEachern in the Semifinals 38-17.
9:26 – 7-0: 4-yard touchdown run by Dante Black
3:57 – 7-7: 11-yard touchdown run by Ty Leggett
5:31 – 14-7: 1-yard touchdown run by Black
3:42 – 14-10: 36-yard field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald
9:19 – 14-17: 24-yard touchdown pass from Steven Krajewski to Marvion McDonald
7:47 – 14-24: fumble recovery for 0 yards by Ty Leggett
1:36 – 14-31: 75-yard touchdown run by Daijun Edwards
QB Steven Krajewski: 9/12, 84 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 INT; 8 carries, 35 yards
RB Daijun Edwards: 22 carries, 183 yards, 1 touchdown
RB Ty Leggett: 13 carries, 67 yards, 1 touchdown
WR Cam Singletary: 5 catches, 21 yards
WR Marvion McDonald: 3 catches, 52 yards, 1 touchdown
QB Angelo DiSpigna: 17/24, 154 yards, 1 INT
RB Dante Black: 23 carries, 166 yards, 2 touchdowns
WR Matthew Hill: 9 catches, 99 yards; 8 carries, 43 yards
WR Nick Prince: 5 catches, 23 yards