ACWORTH - The Heritage football team came up a little short Friday in Acworth. Jeremy Uzee’s touchdown run late in the third gave Allatoona the lead and Harrison Kulp’s potential tying field goal from 40 yards was wide left as the host Buccanneers held on for a 24-21 victory in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
While Region 5-AAAAA runner-up Allatoona will try and return to the state quarterfinals for the second consecutive year when it travels to unbeaten ML King in next week’s second round. Heritage’s season ended at 8-3.
“Two good ball clubs, can’t ask for a better game. Went toe-to-toe tonight, came up short,” said Heritage coach Chad Frazier. "I had faith in (Kulp). Had the leg, just a little left."
Allatoona, in just its fourth season, trailed 17-14 before a nine-play drive put the Cobb County school ahead for good. Uzee was three-for-three on the drive, including a 20-yard hook up with Tommy Davis to set up first-and-goal at the Heritage four. Two players later, Uzee pounded up the middle for the one-yard score.
"(Uzee) is a good little athlete," said Frazier.
On the previous possession, Heritage had taken what turned out to be its final lead of the season on Ryan Sutton’s two-yard touchdown sneak, capping an 11-play, 86-yard drive.
It was a tale of two quarters in the opening half as Heritage grabbed a a quick lead, but Allatoona fought back to lead at halftime.
The Patriots stunned a rabid home crowd with a pair of touchdowns in a span of three plays late in the opening quarter. The first score came thanks in large part to Obe Fortune as the sophomore carried for 15 yards on first down, then was wide open down the middle of the field and caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Sutton to put the Patriots up 7-0.
On the ensuing drive, Uzee dropped back, but telegraphed his pass and Steven Everson stepped in front and intercepted the ball, returning it 50 yards for a 14-0 cushion.
"(On the first scoring possession) we were able to move the football, set up play-action," Frazier said. "Steven Everson made a great play."
The second quarter belonged to Allatoona.
Following Everson’s big defensive play, the Buccanneers answered right away with an impressive scoring drive that made it a 14-7 game early in the second. Allatoona was aided by a 15-yard personal foul penalty and kept the entire drive on the ground-11 carries for 51 yards-the last of which came on a one-yard touchdown scamper by T.J. Herron.
After the hosts got to the Heritage 13, the Patriots’ defense held Allatoona to just three points as Nathan Shaw booted a 30—yard field goal to cut the deficit to 14-10 with 3:30 left until halftime.
Blessed with excellent field position at the Heritage 48-the third time in five first half possessions Allatoona started at its own 45 or better-and Josh Bettistea had 40 of his 90 first half yards on the drive, and Uzee found Clarence Soleberry on a fade route in the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown that sent the Buccaneers into the halftime locker room up 17-14.
"Field position in the second quarter hurt us," Frazier said.
Heritage reached the state playoffs for the third consecutive season, a first in its history, though the Patriots are just 1-3 in four postseason games.
"It's tough," said Frazier. "I'm proud of these guys."