ROSWELL, Ga. — Alpharetta and Roswell were tied, 14-14, early in the fourth quarter of Friday’s Reg. 5-7A showdown in a crucial contest with significant playoff implications. The game had been tight up to that point, but the Raiders owned the fourth quarter and scored three unanswered touchdowns to knock off the Hornets and lock up a playoff spot in their first year under head coach Jason Kervin.
“I’m just so proud of our kids,” Kervin said. “I’m so proud. Our four losses this year have been against four top-10 teams. We’ve battled in every one of them. We’ve had chances to win and we kept falling short, but the kids just came to work every day and kept working. [Roswell] was a top-five team last week who lost a one-score game to Milton, who’s a good team. We beat a good football team, and that’s what we came here to do.”
Roswell scored on the first play of the fourth quarter and tied the game, 14-14. Then, Alpharetta’s takeover began.
Alpharetta quarterback Ben Guthrie found Cooper Mendlinger in the end zone, who managed to hold on for the touchdown catch despite taking a massive hit from a Roswell defender. Following the game, Kervin offered high praise for Mendlinger.
“He’s the unsung hero,” Kervin said. “He plays receiver and plays fullback, which I’ve never had in 12 years of running this offense. Nobody’s had that skillset. He made that third-down catch and got hammered, and I’ve never seen a bigger, better play. That’s what got us over the hump.”
On the ensuing kickoff, nightmare struck for Roswell on Friday the 13th. The Hornets fumbled the ball and Alpharetta recovered, setting up the Raiders’ offense inside the red zone immediately after they took the lead.
The Raiders took full advantage of the opportunity with Jake Gil scoring a rushing touchdown from six yards out.
Roswell desperately needed a score on its next drive to keep their chances of winning alive, but the Raiders extended the margin. Alpharetta defensive back Adam Walker II intercepted a pass by Roswell quarterback Robbie Roper and ran all the way down the sideline and into the end zone for the Raiders’ third touchdown in less than four minutes of game time.
From giving up a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter to scoring 21 unanswered points, Alpharetta flipped the switch and took a commanding 35-14 lead over Roswell.
The Hornets broke through and scored on their next drive with a 64-yard touchdown pass from Robbie Roper to Shaun Spence, but at that point, it was too little and too late.
Roswell and Alpharetta entered halftime tied, 7-7, following a tight, defensive battle in the first two quarters.
Roswell scored first with a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Ryan Hill halfway through the first quartrer. Alpharetta evened their score on the next drive, moving 80 yards down field and scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run by Jake Gil.
Alpharetta was on the brink of scoring and taking the lead in the final minute of the first half when the Hornets forced a turnover. Dillon Holifield intercepted a pass at the goal line to prevent the Raiders from taking the lead, and the two teams went to halftime knotted up at 7 points apiece.
Following the game, Kervin credited the offense, defense and special teams for all contributing to the win and coming up with big plays.
“That’s what we’ve been lacking, answering each other in all phases of the game,” Kervin said. “We did that tonight, and that’s why we came out on top.”
For Alpharetta (4-4, 2-2) the win over Roswell provides a boost in the region standings. With one week remaining in the regular season, the Raiders jumped the Hornets to take the third spot in the Reg. 5-7A standings.
The Raiders can rest easy knowing their next game at Etowah (0-8, 0-4) won’t be their final game of the season, but the game isn’t meaningless. A win over Etowah secures Alpharetta the No. 3 seed in the region. A loss to the Eagles and a Roswell win next week would move the Raiders down to the No. 4 seed.
After starting the season with six straight wins, Roswell (6-2, 2-2) finds itself in need of one more win in the final week to make the playoffs. The Hornets are fourth in the region, and a loss next week against Woodstock (3-6, 1-3) would move them into fifth place and out of the 7A playoff bracket.