MT. AIRY - Mistakes doomed Heritage on Friday night at Raider Stadium.
The Patriots (1-1) failed to score on six trips inside the Habersham Central 25-yard line, including four in the second half, and dropped a 12-7 decision to the Raiders (1-1).
"We missed so many opportunities to score. I really don't remember how many we had four, five or six," Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. "It seemed like we lacked focus at some points in the game. The kids played hard and gave it everything they had, but there were times when we turned the wrong way at quarterback, we missed the snap, the offensive line had a hard time communicating on the snap count and a number of false starts.
"We just have to go back to work and fix the little things that we did wrong tonight."
An early 12-0 deficit in the first quarter didn't help the Patriots' cause, either.
Habersham Central's David Griffin broke loose for a 49-yard touchdown run just 2:34 into the contest.
The Raiders struck again less than five minutes later.
This time, Nick MacMillan scored on a 2-yard plunge with 4:50 left in the opening frame.
Heritage's first turnover of the game, a fumble, killed a drive at the Habersham Central 9 with just 11 seconds left in the first quarter.
However, the Patriots got on the scoreboard on their next drive when Grant Kelly nailed a 24-yard field goal with 8:58 to play in the second quarter.
Just 1:09 later, Heritage got a gift from Habersham Central in the form of a safety off a bad snap on a punt, cutting the Raiders' lead to 12-5.
Late in the second quarter, the Patriots turned the ball over again at the Habersham Central 9 on a fumble.
In the second half, Heritage's offense ran 43 plays to Habersham Central's 20, but could not dent the scoreboard.
However, the Patriot defense cut into the deficit right after its offensive fumbled away another possession at the Raider 18.
Heritage linebacker Travis Martin sacked Habersham Central quarterback Austin Brown in the end zone for a safety at 5:46 of the third quarter, cutting the ' deficit to 12-7.
In the fourth quarter, Heritage faced a fourth-and-1 at the Raider 14, but quarterback Garry Peters was stopped short of the first down on a sneak with 9:26 to play.
With 1:38 left in the game, Heritage defensive end Justin Jones recovered a fumble at his own 38 to give his team one last chance.
Peters connected with a Shaquille Clinton for a 13-yard completion and Anthony Landy for a 22-yard strike to move the ball into Habersham Central territory at the 32 with 27 seconds to play.
But Peters' next pass bounced off his intended receiver's hands and was intercepted by Habersham Central's Avery Dodd to end the last-ditch scoring chance.
"Habersham Central came out and dominated the first nine minutes of the game, but after that our defense adjusted and we shut them down," Frazier said. "On offense we moved it well, but, when you have penalties, turnovers and mental mistakes, you're not going to beat a good ball team."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.