MOUNT AIRY - Habersham Central quarterback Austin Brown turned Halloween into a nightmare for Salem on Friday night at Raider Stadium.
Brown passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Raiders (6-4) to a 24-10 victory over the Seminoles (5-4).
Salem will now have to win next Friday's regular season finale at home against Apalachee to have any shot at Region 8-AAAA playoff berth.
"They had three possessions in the first half and they got three scores. They did a great job of throwing it in the first half and holding the ball," Salem coach Chad Estes said. "We moved the ball, but we just didn't get it in the end zone. I thought our kids really responded and played well facing a tough situation in the second half. We weren't as ready as we should have been in the first half, and that's my responsibility.
"(Next week), we've got to win; that's all we're worried about doing is trying to win on Senior Night at home."
Brown did most of his damage in the first half for the Raiders, completing 13 of 17 passing attempts for 211 yards as his team built a 17-3 halftime.
Salem took a 3-0 lead in the game, capping off a 12-play, 60-yard drive on the game's opening possession with Joseph Schneider's 23-yard field at the 5:05 mark.
But Brown engineered a quick four-play, 65-yard drive to put the Raiders in front. Zach Mayfield scored on a 38-yard pass off a flanker screen, giving Habersham Central a 7-3 lead with 3:36 left in the first quarter.
On their next drive, the Raiders drove the ball 93 yards before Salem's defense forced a field goal attempt. Josh Welborn hit a 21-yard chip shot to give Habersham Central a 10-3 lead with 6:51 left until halftime.
Brown capped off a nearly perfect first half with another touchdown drive on Habersham Central's next possession. He hit 4 of 5 passes for 63 yards to move the ball to the Salem 27.
On third-and-12, he connected with Dee Ellison for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left in the half, pushing Habersham Central out to a 17-3 lead.
The Raiders tacked on their final touchdown after a Salem turnover in the third quarter.
Habersham Central linebacker Keyland Myers intercepted Jarrett Brown's pass over the middle and returned it 38 yards to the Salem 2.
On the next play, Kevin Ellison went over the top for the touchdown at 7:25.
Salem cut its deficit to 14 late in the third quarter when JoJo Smith found Cody Davis on a 6-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left in the period. The score capped off a 16-play, 79-yard drive by the Seminoles.
But Habersham Central's defense kept Salem off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter, collecting two more interceptions to seal the victory.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.