Patriots Come From Behind to Shock Clarke Central

Heritage erases 14-0 deficit, moves to 2-0

— Down goes Clarke Central.

Ryan Sutton’s two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chase Alford with six minutes left in the fourth quarter was the difference as Heritage upset Class AAAA No. 10 Clarke Central 21-14 in Conyers.

Heritage (2-0) trailed 14-0 after the first two quarters, but the second half was a different story.

On the Patriots’ second offensive possession of the third quarter, the hosts used a bit of trickery to end Clarke’s shut out bid. Quami Stanley took a pitch from quarterback Ryan Sutton and dropped back to pass, finding a wide open Steven Everson for a 24-yard touchdown.

Later in the quarter, Dominic Craft had a 26-yard run and Stanley’s 36-yard scamper got the Patriots deep in Clarke territory, and Stanley not only capped the drive with a 12-yard touchdown burst, but rumbled for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 14-14.

Heritage looked poised to take its first lead of the game early in the fourth, but a long drive was stymied by the Clarke defense when Stanley could only collect four yards on four carries inside the Gladiators’ five-yard line.

The euphoria for Clarke didn’t last long. Heritage’s switch to a play-action passing game, which coach Chad Frazier said was an adjustment he and his coaching staff made at halftime, worked like a charm mid-way through the fourth as Sutton found Stanley for a 74-yard touchdown strike. Stanley appeared to have snuck in the end zone, but was instead ruled out at the three.

“I swore I scored,” Stanley said afterward.

Two plays later, Sutton’s play action pass freed up tight end Chase Alford and the two connected on a two-yard touchdown to give the Patriots the lead for good at 21-14. The Patriots’ win, the first against Clarke Central since 2006, snapped a four-game losing streak in the series.

“It was amazing,” said Alford, who also stars on the Heritage defense. “First time in I don’t know how many years (beating Clarke). Best feeling of my life right there.”

“Top-notch program like Clarke, one of the elite teams in the state. I would say yes,” Frazier said when asked if it was his biggest win in five seasons as Heritage coach. “I’m so happy for these kids. It’s a great feeling.”

The Heritage defense, opportunistic early in last week’s win over Salem, had the same kind of luck early on Friday. Clarke lined up for a potential 35-yard field goal by Noah Welch, but Ryan Watson broke through and blocked the kick. The Patriots offense wasted no time getting down field as Sutton found Stanley streaking down the sideline, and Stanley made a nice stutter step move to avoid a defender and was wrestled down after a 47-yard completion. Heritage’s kicking game failed it as well as Chris Raines was wide right on a 33-yard attempt.

After a scoreless first quarter, the visitors jumped on mid-way through the second. Unlike Heritage, Clarke took advantage of the missed field goal, marching 84 yards in 11 plays and taking the first lead of the game at 7-0 on Marquez Williams’ three-yard touchdown run with 8:28 left until halftime. Sutton’s ill-advised pass was intercepted by Dreko Statham and the Clarke defensive back returned it untouched for a 41-yard score that made it a 14-0 game.

In the first 24 minutes, Clarke’s defense stifled the Heritage ground attack, which ate up the Salem defense a week ago, holding the Patriots to less than three yards per carry.

Stanley, who ran for 196 yards in week one against Salem, had another outstanding game, collecting 250 all-purpose yards.