Heritage's Quami Stanley drags an Apalachee player before being brought down during the first half of Friday's game.
CONYERS -- Heritage's defense stopped the Wildcats when they had to by creating turnovers and stopping Apalachee when they needed giving the Patriots a 22-17 homecoming win on Friday.
"The defense did a great job of bending but not breaking, creating turnovers and when we had to make plays we made plays," Heritage head coach Chad Frazier said. "The two turnovers that we scored on made the difference. You have to capitalize on turnovers. A year ago that was us committing those turnovers and a couple of times it cost us."
Heritage (5-0) started the game taking control with an 82-yard, 11 play drive in the second possession to take the lead on a Quami Stanley run of two yards with 3:05 left in the first period to take the lead. It was their only score that was not as a result of a turnover.
Following the touchdown, the Patriots tried to use surprise to their advantage with an onside kick. But the Wildcats (0-4) was able to get the ball giving them a short field. It took Apalachee seven plays before Clint Ashe found Jermaine Smith in the end zone on a 48-yard pass with no time left on the clock.
Penalties pinned the Patriots deep on their side of the field giving the Wildcats another short field. But Heritage's defense only allowed one first and as Apalachee gained 17 yards allowing the Wildcats to take the lead on a 41-yard field goal by Christian Vasquez.
After Heritage's offense went three and out for the second time in the second quarter, the Patriots defense came out on a full blitz causing Ashe to fumble the ball. Heritage recovered the ball on the 34 yard line and took it to the end zone with 1:34 left in the half. However, the Patriots did not just march the ball down the field with ease. Three plays before Myron Fears took it the final four yards, Heritage quarterback Mario Gaines had to make a first down on a fourth and five from the 16.
Turnovers also hit the Patriots offense as the Wildcats intercepted Mario Gaines on the Heritage 23-yard line.
As the Wildcats were driving Heritage's defense caused second fumble.
"I think it was Dustyn Moore who made the hit then the ball hit the ground and Bryan (Taylor) jumped on it," Heritage defensive lineman Ryan Watson said. "I was telling him to give me the ball. It took him a while to give it to me so I didn't break free like I intended. We played Heritage defense killing people like we always do."
It looked like the Wildcats defense was going to stop Heritage but Dominic Craft was able to take the ball around the left side for an 80-yard touch down run.
But Apalachee still did not give up even though they were down by 12 points. Following the touchdown, the Wildcats, with the help of a 49-yard pass from Ashe to Stanley Williams, scored with 3:10 left in the game on an 8-yard Williams run. But the Patriots were able to get the punch kick and held the ball for the win.
"We have a good football team. We have a lot of adversity out there but we have kids like (Ashe) who play their tails off for us," Apalachee head coach Shane Davis said. "We turned it over inside the five with a chance to take the lead. Then we fumbled the ball in the first half that led to a touchdown then we had a touchdown called back. You can't do that against good teams."