Fort Valley - The snap wasn’t perfect, and it was bobbled slightly.
The kick wasn’t end over end or down the middle.
But Eli Mashburn’s 35-yard field goal stayed inside the left upright to give Warner Robins a 38-35 win at the buzzer in a battle between neighbors Friday night at Anderson Field.
It wasn’t Mashburn’s sharpest kick ever, but it was his prettiest.
“That was not beautiful,” he said. “All that matters is that it goes through the two posts”.
The game-winner ended a wild fourth quarter in which the Trojans tied it at 28, gave up the lead on the next possession, and tied it again with 2:40 left in the game, sparked by a 49-yard catch by Kearis Jackson.
The Demons started on their 20 after a touchback.
Dylan Fromm connected with Marcayll Jones for 9 on third and 6, then Fromm’s brother Tyler barely stayed in bounds down the right side for 19 on a catch. Three plays later, with the Demons out of timeouts, the field goal unit sprinted onto the field on fourth and 3 from the 18.
Peach County had a timeout left.
“I was trying to make them hurry up,” Peach County head coach Chad Campbell said. “I didn’t want to give them no damn time. I didn’t want to ice them or anything like that. They were in a hurry trying to get it off.”
Sam Bish hurried the snap back, Dylan Fromm snagged it off the ground and placed it, and Mashburn had enough accuracy for the game-winner.
Mashburn, hit more by teammates afterward in congratulations, had a good feeling.
“Before we even got here, I was watching ‘College field goal wins,’” Mashburn said of a Friday video. “That was insane.”
And he figured it would come down to him after the Trojans tied it on Chris Gibson’s tough 1-yard score and Mitchell Fineran’s point-after kick.
“I was looking at the clock, and it kept winding down,” Mashburn said. “I had to just get the tee down, go through my steps and just hit it like it’s a normal kick.”
It was not a normal kick.
“I’ve never had a kick like in this kind of atmosphere,” Mashburn said. “It’s neat to be a game-winner.”
Warner Robins, ranked sixth in the AJC Class AAAAA poll, improved to 3-0 while Peach County, Class AAA’s No. 1 team, fell to 1-1.
“We gave up too many plays,” Campbell said. “Not doing what you’re coached to do.”
Peach County scored on its first two drives for a 10-0 lead, going 80 yards on eight plays for Trevon Woolfolk’s 7-yard run and then settling for a 37-yard Fineran field goal.
The Demons had the ball for barely three minutes in the first quarter, but kept a drive going and scored early in the second quarter.
Kearis Jackson’s huge kickoff return set up a 35-yard shovel pass from Antonio Gilbert to Chris Gibson and a 17-7 lead. The Demons answered, Dylan Fromm following a great play-fake by connecting to an open Julius Cobbs for a 56-yard score.
Peach County got a 32-yard field goal with 35 seconds left in the half, and then dropped a sure pick-6 interception on the next-to-last play of the half.
The Demons scored on the opening drive of the third quarter, taking a 21-20 lead on Jaeven West’s 56-yarder around the left side with 10:06 remaining. They added to it on another play-action pass, Cobbs catching the 16-yard pass for a 28-20 lead at the 3:18 mark of the third quarter.
Warner Robins’ defense continued to make life tough for Gilbert, and the Trojans went three and out again.
“Passing situations, our coordinators did a great job with the plan,” Warner Robins head coach Mike Chastain said. “They had a speed package on the field, and we were just very excited about that.”
A nice Jackson punt return set up the Trojans on the Warner Robins 48, and a roughing the passer flag followed two losses for 11 yards. Gilbert hit Gibson for an 18-yard touchdown, and then connected with Woolfolk for the game-tying two-point conversion with 9:15 left in the game.
Again, the Demons answered, with a 80-yard drive. Fromm pump-faked, and Jones was all alone for an easy 34-yard touchdown play for a 35-28 lead. The Trojans tied it, and apparently left too much time on the clock, Warner Robins using every second left.
“We just preach all the time: finish and four quarters, finish and four quarters,” said Chastain, who got a big night from running back Jarius Burnette, who had 135 yards on 19 carries and was tough to bring down. “Man, they have stepped up. They were down 10-0 to Northside, they were down 10-0 here tonight. They just come back and keep bouncing.”