Butler – Kickoff was delayed a little more than 90 minutes, thanks to a barrage of lightning throughout Central Georgia.
The stands at Vikings Stadium were still full, and no doubt set for an offensive show between one team averaging 38 points a game and the other team averaging 51.3 points.
It wasn’t an offensive barrage, just a thriller to the final minute.
Jadarrius Hicks connected with Tra Mathis with a 7-yard touchdown pass with 52.5 seconds left and Macon County stopped Taylor County on the 20 as time expired for a 27-22 win in Region 4B-A action.
It was Taylor County’s region opener, and the Vikings - ranked third in the AJC Class A public poll – fell to 3-1. Macon County, No. 4 in the same poll, improved to 3-1.
“We’re really young, so I’m so proud of those young guys tonight,” said Macon County head coach Dexter Copeland, who said the Bulldogs played nearly a half-dozen freshmen and were without Florida State commit offensive lineman Christian Meadows (ankle). “They’ve got a veteran football club. I hope we don’t see them in the playoffs.”
Taylor County, a 70-42 loser in the meeting a year ago, countered a Macon County score in the third quarter – after the Vikings fumbled to open the half – with a 15-play scoring drive, Treci Boyington scoring from the 5.
Macon County committed a pair of offsides on the PAT, including when one snap sailed over the holder’s head, and the Vikings decided to go for two.
Boyington went in, and the Vikings led 15-14 at the 4:49 mark of the third quarter.
“Little Treci Boyington, our other running back, he did a great job,” Taylor County head coach Mark Wilson said after a game with many plot twists. “A lot of people don’t realize we got two good running backs.”
The Bulldogs answered, converting two third downs along the way, with Hicks – who survived another bobbled snap, a problem all night as he rehabs a hand injury - spinning in from the 14. The kick gave Macon County a 21-15 lead.
“We’ve been struggling with the snaps all year,” Copeland said. “We kept getting momentum, and then we’d fumble the snap.”
But they gave it back by fumbling a punt on the final play of the third quarter, Taylor County taking over on the Macon County 38 only for the Bulldogs defense – aided by a delay flag on fourth and 5 – to hold.
The Taylor County defense got the ball back at the Macon County 44 with 8:18 left in the game, Boyington’s 4-yard run and Diego Paz’s kick giving the Vikings a 22-21 lead with 4:20 left.
Both teams were shaky on the next possession, but Taylor County helped Macon County with a 5-yard facemask and two pass interference calls, the second of which put the Bulldogs – who had a hold on the drive – at the 7, setting up the game-winner.
“They were starting to shade (Trey Brown),” Copeland said of his lanky standout receiver. “So we had to put another receiver on the back side. IF they’re going to double (Brown), that backside receiver has a one on one.”
Taylor County started on its 44 with 44.9 seconds left and promptly had a false start, which it repeated three snaps later. Quarterback Gunnar Watson got a first down on third and 8, and running back Lyn-J Dixon took his pass on the final play of the game – snapped with 6.4 seconds left – 24 yards, going out at the 20 after time expired.
“A lot of penalties,” Wilson said of what hurt the Vikings the most. “That’s what we’ve got to work on.”
Dixon, a Tennessee commit, went 32 yards on the Vikings’ first play from scrimmage, setting up a 10-yard scoring pass from Troy-bound Watson to Jackson Knight seven plays later.
For the second straight trip, a bobbled snap spoiled a fourth-down try by Macon County, which then forced a three-and-out.
The Bulldogs coughed it up on first and goal at the one, at the end of a 12-play drive that had starting Hicks on the bench injured for the final four plays.
Macon County followed another defensive three and out after the turnover and out with a four-play, 45-yard scoring drive, Hicks connecting with Brown for the 29-yard score.
Abisai Gutierrez’s kick tied it at 7 with 6:06 left in the half.
“We had a couple guys that were (banged) up at halftime,” Copeland said. “It was a physical ballgame.”
Aukeevious McLendon had 169 yards on 21 carries and Hicks 84 on 22 for Macon County, while Dixon battled for 101 on 24 carries.
Macon County entered the game having played a tougher early-season schedule, with wins over Dooly County and Class AA No. 9 Fitzgerald, and an 8-point loss to AJC Class A public co-No. 1 Irwin County.
Taylor County's three opponents - Terrell County, Greenville and Central-Talbotton - were 1-9.
So one team had played starters a lot longer than the other one.
“I was worried a little bit,” Wilson said. “That was the first time we’ve played a full four-quarter game. Our starters ain’t played but a half in three ballgames. But they’ve got a lot of fight.”