Harrison moved into sole possession of first place in Region 6-AAAAAA with a 28-26 victory over Dalton, but the Hoyas potentially suffered a big loss in the process.
Quarterback Justin Fields, the nation’s top-rated senior prospect who committed to Georgia two weeks ago, left the game with an injury on the next-to-last play of the third quarter after accounting for 392 yards and helping his team to a 28-23 lead. The injury is thought to be a broken index finger on his right (throwing) hand. If that’s the case, his high school career might be over.
Fourth-ranked Harrison (6-2, 5-0) can clinch the region championship with a victory against Sequoyah next week. Dalton (6-2, 4-1) is now one of three one-loss teams in region play battling for second place.
“Justin was right there supporting us and yelling for us,” Harrison coach Matt Dickmann said. “It’s just disappointing that if it is broken, his season’s going to end now. I know he’s got a lot of great things ahead of him, but I sure would’ve liked to be able to coach him the rest of the year on the field. But we’ll see what happens. I don’t know, maybe we can have something lucky happen.”
With Georgia coach Kirby Smart in attendance and a national television audience watching, Fields rushed for 207 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries and was 7-of-11 passing for 185 yards and a touchdown.
The Hoyas allowed a 25-yard field goal by Ivan Mora in the fourth quarter but managed to hold on.
Dalton drove from its 34 and had a third-and-3 play at the Harrison 4, but quarterback JP Tighe was stopped for a 1-yard gain. After a 5-yard penalty backed the ball up to the 8, the Catamounts elected to kick the field goal, cutting the lead to 28-26 with 4:43 remaining.
Harrison received the kickoff and ran out the clock, using 11 consecutive running plays. Brunson, David, Roberts, Dawson Brown and Curtis Scott each had key carries on the game-clinching drive.
“We’re still in the driver’s seat,” Dickmann said. “It was a total team effort in the second half. I’m really proud of the whole team the way we played in the second half, because we did not play Hoya football in the first half. Offensively we kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
The turning point of the game came in the final minute of the first half. Dalton attempted a 26-yard field goal that would’ve given it a 19-7 lead, but the Catamounts mishandled the snap and turned the ball over on downs at the Harrison 14 with 31.8 seconds remaining in the half.
Harrison needed just four plays to go the length of the field and pull within two points. A 26-yard run by Fields on the first play moved the ball out to the 40. After a 2-yard loss by Fields, he threw a 28-yard pass to Steven Peterson that got the ball to the Dalton 34. On the final play of the half, Fields lofted a pass to the back of the end zone that was pulled in by Tyrese Brunson, cutting the lead to 16-14 at halftime.
Harrison took a 7-0 lead on its first possession of the game, driving 66 yards in six plays - five runs by Fields and a 42-yard pass to Peterson. Fields capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run.
Dalton scored the game’s next 16 points, with two touchdowns (the extra-point attempt after the first one was blocked by Harrison’s Joe Joe Hagin) and a field goal on its next three drives.
Dalton sophomore Jahmir Gibbs had a season-best effort, rushing for 182 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He had touchdown runs of 26 and 20 yards in the first quarter and a 38-yard run in the third quarter that set up another touchdown.
Dalton - 13-3-7-3 - 26
Harrison - 7-7-14-0 - 28
H - Justin Fields 5 run (Alex Raynor kick)
D - Jahmyr Gibbs 26 run (kick blocked)
D - Gibbs 20 run (Ivan Mora kick)
D - Mora 35 field goal
H - Tyrese Brunson 34 pass from Fields (Raynor kick)
H - Brunson 1 run (Raynor kick)
D - JP Tighe 1 run (Mora kick)
H - Brunson 1 run (Raynor kick)
D - Mora 25 field goal