Conyers With three minutes to play in the third quarter of Friday’s game, Heritage was down 17-0 and looked headed for a key loss in Region 8-AAAAA. But that’s just when the Patriots got going.
Backup quarterback Isaiah Spencer hooked up with Steven Everson on a pair of second half touchdowns, including the tying score with three minutes to play, and Heritage got a touchdown run by Myron Fears in overtime to stun Clarke Central, 23-20.
Heritage improved to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in Region 8-AAAAA, while Clarke had its three-game winning streak snapped, fell to 3-3 overall and lost for the first time in four league games.
On Clarke's first possession of overtime, the Gladiators could only muster three positive yards and quarterback Cameron Johnson was sacked on a third-and-long play. Matthew Ward gave Clarke a 20-17 lead with a 37-yard field goal.
That wasn't enough for the visitors from Athens.
Spencer scampered for 11 yards on a quarterback draw to set up first-and-goal, and Myron Fears pounded his way into the end zone from four yards to set off a raucous celebration at Evans Memorial Stadium.
"My main goal was to hang on to the ball," Spencer said of his run. "We saw (Fears' touchdown) coming. It was automatic. That was the joy."
"We just keep preaching, we're going to compete and battle and keep playing until that final whistle blows," said Heritage coach Chad Frazier. "It was enough to get it done. As a team we got it done."
Clarke seemed in control of the game before Heritage mounted its comeback. The hosts finally got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter, thanks in large part to Spencer. The senior, who took over for starter Ryan Sutton on the second possession of the second half, completed 3-of-6 passes on a 10-play drive, and found a wide open Everson in the corner of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 17-7.
After a Clarke punt, a Heritage drive stalled at the 26, but Harrison Kulp booted a 43-yard field goal to make it 17-10 with seven minutes left.
Spencer and Everson hooked up again with 3:20 to play, this time in the corner of the end zone for a 28-yard score that knotted things up at 17-17.
"We just got a spark," Spencer said of the second half come back. "I just said (in the huddle) to get our heads on straight. We always rally."
"He had an opportunity tonight and he took advantage of it," Frazier said of Spencer. "Kept his poise the whole time."
Clarke had just 19 yards of total offense before a big play with under two minutes to go in the first quarter set up the game’s first score. Johnson found Austin Johnson streaking down the middle of the field and the pair hooked up for a 42-yard connection to the Heritage 33-yard line.
Though the drive stalled at the 20, Ward booted his first 37-yard field goal of the night to put the visitors up 3-0.
A 12-play, 70-yard drive helped Clarke grab a 10-0 lead late in the first half. On a key third-and-two, Denzel Maxey made a one-handed grab on a screen pass for 12 yards. Four plays later, Johnson found Jamonte Smith and Smith did the rest, scoring from 15 yards.
The Heritage offense was shut down in the opening half by a stout Clarke defense. The Patriots were held to just 46 total yards and three first downs during the first 24 minutes as Fears’ 37-yard run midway through the first quarter was the only bright spot.
"(Clarke Central is) tough. Those front seven guys were tough. We just kept running into a wall of bodies," Frazier said. "
Meanwhile, Clarke gained just 146 yards of total offense, but converted four-of-seven third down conversions, including several key conversions on the two scoring drives.
The Gladiators made it 17-0 with 3:07 left in the third when Johnson’s bootleg pass to fullback Baylor Ward turned into a 19-yard touchdown when Ward broke a tackle at the five and rumbled into the end zone.
That was the last time Clarke would score in regulation.