Warner Robins – Both teams had the opponent right where they wanted them.
Coffee had a 27-14 lead late in the first half, and that didn’t matter. Soon enough, the Trojans rendered the Demons’ 49-27 turnover-aided third-quarter lead irrelevant.
The Trojans scored on three straight possessions to tie it, but Eli Mashburn drilled a 35-yard field goal with six seconds left to give Warner Robins a 52-49 win over Coffee in a battle of ranked non-region opponents.
Coffee, which fell to 3-2, was ranked third in the AJC’s Class AAAAAA poll but lost for the second straight week in the final seconds on a field goal, Tift County doing the damage 33-31 a week earlier. Warner Robins, No. 6 in Class AAAAA, improved to 6-0 with its second game-winner in the waning moments this month.
Mashburn had a little time – actually, plenty of time, thanks to Coffee timeouts to ice him – on this clutch kick. He drilled another 35-yarder at the start of the month as time expired to knock off Peach County, then No. 1 in Class AAA, 38-35 in Fort Valley.
“When you kick one with time expiring, the ones when you’re getting iced, it makes it easier,” Mashburn said. “Everything is still. After the third (timeout), I knew he didn’t want me to kick the ball.”
Mashburn said he saw Coffee head coach Robby Pruitt taking a peek during pregame, and Pruitt watched Mashburn do hours later what he could do before the kickoff.
“He drilled it, there was no question,” Pruitt said. “It was a great kick.”
A week ago, Pruitt watched Tift County try three field goals with nine seconds left.
“They had three tries,he said."They kicked it from the 44-yard line and missed it far right, and (Tift) jumped offsides. Back to about the 49, we call timeout to ice him, and (say), ‘Don’t jump offsides, don’t hit him,’ … I’ll be danged if he kicks it 49 (yards), this time he hooks it far left, and we jump offsides.”
The third one was good.
Few figured that an early missed kick – Coffee couldn’t convert the PAT after it scored on an interception return for a touchdown by Jarquavious Jefferson with 4:40 left in the first quarter – would lead to such a dramatic kick at the end.
In between, Coffee watched a 27-21 halftime lead evaporate in short order in the third quarter.
The Trojans lost 12 yards and fumbled, and the Demons converted two plays later on a 31-yard pass from Dylan Fromm to Julius Cobbs. Coffee gave it back three plays later on their side of the field when C.J. Harris stripped the ball, and the Demons got a 5-yard scoring pass from Dylan Fromm to brother Tyler Fromm.
Mashburn’s PAT put the Demons up 35-27 with 8:29 left in the third.
Coffee punted on its next trip, but the Demons scored after a 10-play, 82-yard drive. But a fumble after a 29-yard pass play gave Warner Robins possession on its 37.
Dylan Fromm kept from a yard out two plays after Markel Locke bounced outside for a 56-yard gain, and the lead was 49-27.
“That’s one thing we hadn’t done all year, turn the ball over,” Pruitt said. “That showed to be the difference in the game. That killed us.”
Coffee stayed patient and, with some help from its defense, crept back in it, starting with a score on its next possession, and its next possession, and then its next possession.
The game-tying drive started on the Coffee 17 with 5:44 left in regulation. The Trojans converted the lone third down on the 10-play drive. Dalrone Donaldson, a 6-3 senior, reached over a defender to pluck the 19-yard touchdown pass from Wade Sumner with 2:33 left.
Sumner then went right on the conversion, found no room or receivers, and cut back to the middle to score the two-point conversion and tie the game.
Warner Robins started on its 18 with 2:27 left, got 15 on third and 10, kept moving, then lost three on third and 9 from the Coffee 38. On fourth down, Dylan Fromm found Cobbs in the middle for 14 to get clearly within Mashburn’s range, moreso after Jaeven West’s 8-yard run.
Warner Robins called time, the Coffee burned three timeouts with Mashburn waiting to kick.
It didn’t matter. Against Peach County, the Demons were rushing onto the field to get the kick off. The snap was off, so the hold was bobbled, and Mashburn’s hook was good. This time, the snap and hold were perfect and Mashburn’s kick was straight.
An unseasonably warm night combined with injuries forcing Coffee to play about eight players both ways was an advantage for the Demons.
“That takes a toll on the guys,” Warner Robins head coach Mike Chastain said. “That’s one of the reasons we choose not to. I think this was one of the hottest weeks we’ve had all season. We’re playing up-tempo, and I think they were wore out a little.”
The win avenged a 56-22 loss a year ago for the Demons, who open Region 1-AAAAA play at Thomas County Central, while Coffee has a week off before visiting Houston County in the 1-AAAAAA opener.