The Ware County Gators dropped a tough region game on the road last week at Wayne and will play their last regular season game at home Friday against New Hampstead. The winner of the game will lock down second place in the region and secure a home field playoff game in the first round of the GHSA State Football Championship Playoffs. Kickoff is set for 7:30 and we need the Gator Nation to Rise Up and pack the Swamp. The Gators will celebrate Senior Night.
Advance tickets for Friday Night's game can be purchased at First Southern Bank, J. Green & Company Jewelers, the Central Board Office and the high school ticket office Tuesday - Thursday from 8:00 am - 1:00 pm and again on Friday from 8:00 am - 11:00 am and online at www.warecountygators.net for just $7 by CLICKING HERE. All tickets at the gate are $9.
Story compliments of Rick Head, Sports Editor of the Waycross Journal Herald (Thanks)
JESUP — Wayne County used big plays in the running game, passing game and on special teams to unseat Ware County as the Region 2- AAAAA kingpin here Friday night at Jaycee Stadium. Playing in front of a near capacity crowd, the Yellow Jackets (7-1 overall, 3-0 region) doubled up Ware County 28-14 to dethrone the defending region champions. The loss also snapped the Gators' (3-5, 2-1) three-game winning streak. "We had our opportunities," said head coach Franklin Stephens. "Unfortunately, we missed out. Give Wayne County credit because they (Yellow Jackets) played their butts off. They were able to hit on their plays. "They clinched the region title and now we have some business to take care of next week if we want to host a first round playoff game. It's the last home game for our seniors and it is important they go out and take care of business. There's a lot riding on the game next week." The Gators will host New Hampstead (5-3, 2-1) in the regular season finale with the winner finishing second and hosting the Region 1 third seed. The loser will begin their playoff journey on the road at the No. 2 seed. South Effingham (1-9, 1- 3) secured the fourth spot beating Statesboro (2-6, 0-2) 28-17. Region 1 will be decided next Friday when unbeaten Warner Robins (9-0) entertains Bainbridge (7-2) in a region championship matchup. Harris County (4-5) will host Thomas County Central (3-6) in a battle for third place. Wayne County junior running back M.J. Fuller was a one-man wrecking ball. He rushed for a game-high 150 yards on a gamehigh 26 carries scoring two short touchdowns from a yard out and two yards out. He caught four passes for 51 yards and returned a kick 87 yards for a score. "Their No. 29 (Fuller) was the difference," Stephens said. "He was phenomenal. He had a couple of big runs on the wraparound draw, was the recipient on the hook-and-lateral and returned the kick for a score." Ware County was unable to capitalize on the only turnover of the game, an interception by defensive back Demarco Gibson on the Yellow Jackets' first offensive possession. After the Gators went threeand-out, Wayne County went 77 yards in a lightning quick eight plays consuming just 1:58 of clock time. Fuller's 45-yard burst three plays in moved the ball to the Ware County 13. A seven-yard completion from Garrett Overholt (13-of-25, 162 yards) to Ashley Cribb (four catches, 54 yards) moved the ball to the Gators' six. Fuller took over from there carrying the ball four straight times eventually scoring on a one-yard run. Austin Crews kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead with 6:44 to play in the opening stanza.
Unfazed, the Gators responded with a 10-play drive covering 65 yards and eating up four minutes. Raja Bradley, who had recorded back-to-back 200-yard rushing games, was the workhorse carrying seven times. Bradley (20 carries, 84 yards) kept the drive alive twice converting on a third-and-one and a fourth-and-one. The second conversion was followed by a 32-yard run off left guard for a touchdown closing the gap to 7-6. Victor Steedley's PAT evened the score with 2:44 showing on the clock. The game was tied for all of 13 seconds. Fuller fielded the ensuing kick at his own 13 along the Ware County sideline, raced to the hash and sped up the field coming out of a wad near the Wayne County 25 out running Gator defenders to the end zone. Crews added the PAT for a 14-7 lead. "That gave them (Yellow Jackets) the momentum back," said Stephens of the turning point. "We still had some opportunities, but we just did not make the plays. We' made those plays the last couple of weeks, but tonight against a very good team we didn't. I'm just going to have to go back and look at the film and try to figure out what happened. On their first possession of the second quarter, the Yellow Jackets pushed the margin to 14 points flying 57 yards in three plays. The big play came on second down when Overholt hit Cooper Martin on a hook pattern. Bobbling the ball and with a defender draped around him, Martin lateralled the ball to Fuller for a 43-yard gain to the Ware County 25. A perfectly thrown pass by Overholt to Cribb on the ensuing snap extended the lead to 21-7 after the Crews' PAT. Cribb outwrestled a Ware County defender for the ball in the end zone. The Gators would follow with another time-consuming drive looking for the answer. The 4:45, 11-play drive stalled at the Wayne County 21 when quarterback Jeremiah O'Hara's fourth down pass over the middle was tipped away by a Yellow Jacket defender. Bradley, who had 81 yards rushing on 16 carries in the first half, was hurt on the 10th play of the series with 5:50 remaining in the half. A Wayne County defender twisted Bradley's ankle in the scrum. Bradley's mobility was limited the rest of the night finishing with three yards on his final four carries in the second half. Wayne County scored its final points of the night on the Yellow Jackets' first possession of the second half. A 13-play, 64-yard drive in 4:06 ended with Fuller's twoyard run. There were two big plays for the Yellow Jackets. The first was a 12- yard run by Cribb on a fake 45- yard field goal attempt. The second was a 25-yard run by Fuller on a second-and-23 moving the ball to the Ware County four. Fuller scored two plays later for a 28-7 cushion. "We practiced all week against stopping the fake field goal," Stephens said. "We were just undisciplined." For the second time in four possession, Ware County put together a long, time-consuming that would without a score. The Gators' 13- play drive ate up 5:02 off the third quarter clock. It was aided by a 15- yard penalty against Wayne County for a personal foul hit on O'Hara. The possession by Ware County would also be O'Hara's last. He was pulled with concussion-like symptoms from the vicious hit administered by linebacker Lemont Trent. The Gators did capitalize on their best field position of the night on their next possession. Acy Paulk (5-of-12, 65 yards) relieved O'Hara and quickly directed a four-play scoring drive covering 43 yards. Paulk hit Jacob Hendrix (two catches, 20 yards) for 13 yards on the second play, Bradley (two catches, 18 yards) on the next and finished with a 25-yard scoring toss to Trey Cobb (two catches, 34 yards) with 10:10 remaining. "Acy came in in a tough situation and did a good job," said Stephens. "He stood tall in the pocket, made some good reads and threw a catchable ball." Neither team would threaten the rest of the way.
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