COVINGTON - The Heritage football team kept its playoff hopes alive Friday night at Homer Sharp Stadium, rallying to beat Alcovy 28-24 in a shootout.
With the win, Heritage (3-6 overall, 1-4 Region 8-AAAA South) can still clinch a No. 4 seed in the region playoffs, but it needs Eastside to beat Rockdale tonight in Covington.
Against Alcovy (2-7, 1-4), the Patriots fell behind 14-0 early before tying it at 14 before halftime.
The two teams traded leads in the second half with Alcovy going up 17-14 in the third quarter. Heritage took its first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter, only to see Alcovy get it back and go up 24-21.
But it was the Patriots who got the last laugh, scoring with 1:55 left to play.
"The kids stepped up and made big plays when we needed them," Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. "Both teams were in fourth-down situations late in the game. They (Alcovy) made plays when they needed to, and we did, too. We just made a couple more, really."
The game featured inauspicious starts for both squads as the two teams combined for five penalties in the first two and a half minutes.
But it was Alcovy that struck first blood as quarterback Ryan Ledford hooked up with Eric Strozier for a 9-yard touchdown pass with 7:59 left in the first quarter.
After a Heritage punt, Ledford led the Tigers down the field on another drive. Ledford, using his arm and his legs, led the Tigers on an eight-play, 80-yard drive, highlighted by a 45-yard pass from Ledford to Strozier.
On a third-and-goal from the 6, Ledford hit Cody Edwards for the score. The extra point made it 14-0 with 1:45 left in the opening quarter.
Heritage finally got on the board in the second quarter off Zach Cheek's over-the-top scoring leap. The extra point made it 14-7 with 8:30 left in the second quarter. The touchdown capped a nine-play, 67-yard drive.
Heritage tied the game up at 14 on its last drive of the first half, going 66 yards for the score with 10.2 left until the break. The drive culminated with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Seabolt to Cheek with 10.2 seconds left on the clock.
Alcovy opened the second half with a 22-play scoring drive, but the march stopped at the 6-yard line, and the Tigers had to settle for a 23-yard field goal from Timothy Walsh. Still, the drive lasted almost 10 minutes.
Heritage took its first lead of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 60-yard pass from Seabolt to Mikel Hunter. The extra point made it 21-17 with 11:53 left in the game.
Alcovy answered with a seven-play, 54-yard touchdown drive to go up 24-21 with 7:24 left in the fourth.
But once again, the Patriots answered.
This time, Heritage went 65 yards on 11 plays and scored with Cheek's third touchdown of the night, this one on a bruising touchdown run up the middle. The extra point put the Patriots up 28-24 with 1:55 left in the game.
Alcovy got one last chance, but Ledford was intercepted in the final minute.
Despite the loss, Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman said he was pleased with the way his team played.
"Both teams played hard. It was a heck of a ball game," Hoffman said. "The thing that I'm proud of is that these kids battled their butts off. We just couldn't get over the hump, but it's going to happen. We're going to get over the hump. I wouldn't trade these kids for anybody."
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org