CONYERS - All season, Heritage has tasted its fair share of fourth-quarter frustration.
Finally on Friday night, the Patriots (2-5) exorcised some of their fourth-quarter demons.
Garry Peters scored on a 57-yard touchdown run with 27 seconds left in the game, as Heritage scored three times in a frenetic fourth quarter to stun Madison County 21-20 on Homecoming at Evans Memorial Stadium.
"We needed one, and finally we got one," Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. "The kids played their guts out at the end. It was amazing the way we pulled it out. We've been on the short end of these so many times, but we kept plugging and plugging and finally got us one."
Trailing 14-0 early in the fourth quarter, the Patriots cut Madison County's lead in half when senior fullback Chase Davis scored a 34-yard touchdown run off a draw with 9:44 left in the game.
After that, Heritage had two straight opportunities in Red Raider territory to find the equalizing touchdown. But each time, the Patriots stalled, turning the ball over downs at the 23 and the 10.
In fact, it looked like another fourth-quarter frustration for the Patriots when the Red Raiders (5-3) took over with 2:30 left in the contest.
However, Heritage's defense held and, after a quick kick, the Patriots had the ball at the Madison 38.
Three plays later, Peters struck for his first of three big plays in the final 1:44, hauling in a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andre Wilson that tied the score at 14 with Tyler Peoples' extra point.
"I just told my quarterback to look back side, because it was open all night," Peters said. "He threw it up and thank God I went up there and made a big play."
But Madison County quarterback Jacob Owens coolly directed his squad back down the field, connecting on four of seven passing attempts for 80 yards, the final one a 30-yard touchdown to Jamal Cooper on a middle screen with 40 seconds left to play.
The Red Raiders missed the extra point, but still held a 20-14 advantage.
Madison County opted for a squib kick, which gave Heritage the ball at its own 43, and surprised Frazier, who thought the kickoff would go deep.
Frazier rolled the dice and put Peters under center, and that one decision wiped away a season's worth of frustration for the Patriots.
Peters took the quarterback draw, shook loose from a tackle in the middle of the field and was gone for the game-tying touchdown with 27 seconds remaining in the game.
Peoples nailed the extra point and the Patriots led for the first and only time at 21-20.
"I was really surprised they kicked the way they did at the end and gave us great field position," Frazier said. "We talked about if we got anything worthwhile we were going to take one shot with Garry on the quarterback draw. He just willed his way to the end zone, and he got some great blocking."
In fact, Peters had no idea his was getting the call on the quarterback draw.
"My line blocked great for me, which they always do, and I took one to the house," Peters said. "I did not know at all (that I was getting the call). I'm just happy I did."
And then, Peters put the exclamation point on the victory, intercepting Owens' next pass to seal the deal.
Peters finished the game with five catches for 85 yards, one rush for 57 yards and an interception.
After a scoreless first quarter, Madison County built a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
Kendrick Butler put the Red Raiders in front with a 26-yard touchdown run off a toss left with 7:22 left before halftime.
Butler struck again with 1:51 remaining in the quarter when he caught a deflected pass for a 29-yard touchdown from Owens.
Heritage's defense forced five total turnovers. Ryan Sullivan intercepted two passes, while Chris Polascik and Calvin Vann recovered fumbles.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.