The Hapeville Charter football team sought revenge for its loss in the 2016 state semifinals, and it turned out just the way they wanted.
Marcus Carroll rushed for a 12-yard touchdown with 4:52 left and Hapeville, ranked No. 2 in Class AA, blocked a potential tying field goal on the last play of the game for a 25-22 win over No. 3 Fitzgerald at Banneker High School Friday.
The Hornets lost 42-21 at Fitzgerald in the 2016 Class AA semifinals, and Hapeville Charter coach Winston Gordon said the South Fulton school rearranged its schedule to accommodate the rematch.
“We marked this on the calendar,” Gordon said. “We sought out this game. We wanted it that bad because we knew we dropped the ball last year.”
The game featured seven turnovers – five by visiting Fitzgerald – and a blackout midway through the fourth period that resulted in an 18-minute delay.
Hapeville Charter quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams passed for 256 yards and rushed for another 39, including an 8-yard touchdown run. Williams led three second-half scoring drives, allowing the Hornets to overcome deficits of 16-7 and 22-14.
“Fitzgerald is a great team, and last year they made us short of our goal,” Williams said. “When we heard we got this game, that motivated us in the weight room and running, to work harder at everything. We had a few miscues, but we stayed together.”
Fitzgerald, meanwhile, had chances to put the game out of reach in the first half, but lost three fumbles, including two inside the Hapeville 5-yard line.
Fitzgerald accumulated 479 total yards, the turnovers, a blocked extra point and the blocked field goal was more than the Hurricanes could overcome.
“Five turnovers on the road against a good team … we talked all week about how when you play good teams the margin for error is very small,” said Fitzgerald coach Tucker Pruitt. “We let them off the hook.”
Fitzgerald quarterback James Graham rushed for 243 yards and three touchdowns and passed for another 210.
Down 16-7 in the third quarter, Hapeville Charter went 75 yards in 10 plays, scoring on Williams’ 8-yard run.
Graham answered with a 42-yard touchdown run to put Fitzgerald up 22-14 before the Hornets drove 62 yards to set up Alex Barnett’s 33-yard field goal.
Hapeville Charter’s Malik Fleming intercepted a Graham pass – Fleming’s second interception of the night – to set up the winning drive. After Kivante’ Johnson broke free for a 37-yard run, Carroll finished the winning drive with his 12-yard run.
Fitzgerald 7 2 13 0 – 22
Hapeville Charter 0 7 10 8 – 25
HC – Orlando Banks 1 run (Alex Barnett kick)
F- James Graham 2 run (Alex Martinez kick)
F-Safety (intentional grounding in end zone)
F- Graham 37 run (Martinez kick)
HC – Hajj-malik Williams 8 run (kick blocked)
F- Graham 42 run (Martinez kick)
HC- FG Barnett 33
HC – Marcus Carroll 12 run (Adunte Devereaux pass from Williams)