DANIELSVILLE - Seventeen seconds was all it took to send Madison County into its worst rut in nine years.
The Red Raiders surrendered an early second-half score and squandered three red-zone opportunities in a 7-0 loss to Heritage on Friday night, their fifth consecutive defeat.
The Red Raiders' losing streak is their longest since 1999, when they dropped their first six games of the season and finished with a 2-8 record.
They are in danger of equaling that mark this season, unless they can upset Apalachee or Clarke Central, both of which entered Friday tied atop the Region 8-AAAA standings.
Battling to a scoreless tie in the first half, Heritage (3-4) wasted little time on its first possession after halftime.
Tailback Reggie Juin, who didn't play in the first half, bounced a run outside for a 58-yard gain, taking the ball inside the Madison County 7. On the next play, quarterback Garry Peters, who replaced struggling starter Andre Wilson, ran in the score to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead.
Just like that. Only 17 seconds had elapsed.
That would be the last of the big plays for Heritage, save consecutive third-and-5 conversions with less than 4 minutes left that prolonged its final drive and kept Madison County's offense off the field.
Indeed, the Red Raiders appeared poised to take over with 2 minutes left, but Heritage's Devon Holmes, who finished with 76 yards on 19 carries, lunged forward on his final effort and appeared close to a first down.
They called for a measurement, and it was so close the referee had to crouch to field level and inspect. He signaled first down, eliciting an audible moan from the Madison County sideline and a grimace from coach Randell Owens.
"We were one play from turning it around," Madison County coach Randell Owens said. "Losing is hard. We're working and not getting paid."
Madison County (2-6) failed to score more than 14 points for the fifth consecutive game, after hanging 34 points on winless Monroe Area on Sept. 12.
The Red Raiders drove inside the Heritage 20-yard line three times Friday, but a few wayward throws, a couple of poor blocks and a missed field goal (30 yards) rendered those drives insignificant.
"(Heritage) had one drive where it finished the drill, and we had several drives where we got close and couldn't put it together," Owens said.
Madison County's best chance to score came on its first possession of the second half, after Heritage raced to a 7-0 lead.
The Red Raiders drove to the Heritage 13, but Jacob Owens slightly dislocated his left, non-throwing shoulder on a quarterback sneak and couldn't pick up the first down. Sophomore kicker Branden Wilson missed a 30-yard field goal two plays later.