JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – With three minutes left in last Friday’s game against South Forsyth, the Chattahoochee Cougars had minus-18 yards rushing to 350 for the War Eagles, Oct. 11.
The Cougars picked up 44 yards on the ground on their final series, scoring a touchdown in the last 40 seconds to close within 31-24. An onside kick attempt was unsuccessful, leaving Chattahoochee with a home field loss that will require the Cougars to upset one of Region 6-AAAAAA’s top two teams the next two weeks to return to the playoffs.
South Forsyth (2-1, 5-1) dominated both lines of scrimmage, with the War Eagles’ power running game more than compensating for just 18 yards passing. South Forsyth attempted just one pass in the second half, a third down incompletion that gave the Cougars (1-2, 3-3) a chance to score a tying touchdown midway through the final period.
On the first play after a punt, Chattahoochee quarterback Taz Wilson connected with Avery Ward for 30 yards to the South Forsyth 27. But a low snap from center, a problem that plagued the Cougars throughout the game, resulted in a fumble on the next play, and the War Eagles recovered.
South Forsyth broke a 46-yard run into Chattahoochee territory and went on to score the clinching touchdown. The War Eagles scored on five of their last six possessions, overcoming a first-and-22 on an eight-minute, 77-yard drive to a tying field goal in the third period.
The go-ahead touchdown drive followed a Chattahoochee series that lost 16 yards in three plays, forcing a punt from inside the Cougars’ 5. A mishandled snap put the Cougars in a second-and-15 hole, with another errant snap stopping the next Chattahoochee scoring opportunity.
Trailing 24-17, the Cougars swept 50 yards in three plays to the War Eagles’ 30. But a bad snap on third down forced a punt, and South Forsyth drove for the clinching TD.
South Forsyth struggled almost as much against the Chattahoochee passing attack as the Cougars did against the War Eagles’ ground game. Wilson completed 14 of 22 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns, and had a 44-yard scoring pass nullified by a penalty. He also scored the final Chattahoochee touchdown on a determined 16-yard run.
But a succession of South Forsyth blitzes produced three sacks of Wilson and hurried several throws. In addition, the Cougars lost 36 yards on four running plays when tailback Kieron Ashley attempted to reverse field after being hemmed in behind the line.
The Cougars failed to score after a 50-yard pass from Wilson to Colin Lisa on their first possession, with Lisa called for interference on what would have been a 44-yard TD catch on the next series.
Chattahoochee’s defense contained the War Eagles early, with the Cougars taking a 10-0 lead four minutes into the second quarter. Wilson hit Lisa (six catches, 127 yards) in the end zone for a 26-yard score late in the opening period. Adam Abdellaoui connected on a 47-yard field goal before South Forsyth went to a power-I offense with two tight ends and began pounding the smaller Chattahoochee defense.
A 73-yard strike from Wilson to Ward (five catches, 151 yards) made it 17-7 Chattahoochee midway through the second period. But the Cougars’ offensive mistakes in the second half prevented them from matching South Forsyth’s scores.
The bad snaps “were just one of those things,” Chattahoochee coach Mike Owens said. “They did a lot of blitzing and that affected the snaps.”
Owens said the War Eagles’ physical style of play was difficult for the Cougars to contend with, “but we were in a position to make some plays and did not make them.”
Injuries to key linemen on both sides of the football have played a role in the Cougars’ struggles, but Owens pointed out, “We’ve got to be able to handle adversity and come back.”
The Cougars are at home Friday against region leader Alpharetta, which will test the Chattahoochee secondary and will be the best defensive team the Cougars have faced.