CONYERS -- Two weeks ago, Heritage quarterback Ryan Sutton was replaced as the starter and watched Isaiah Spencer lead a second-half comeback win over Clarke Central. A week ago, Spencer played nearly the entire way in a loss to Flowery Branch. Reinserted in the starter's role Friday against Loganville, Sutton was back to his old self.
Sutton ran for a pair of touchdowns, part of a 260-yard rushing attack, and threw for another score as Heritage bounced back with a 22-7 victory at Evans Memorial Stadium.
Heritage remained in line for one of the four playoff spots in Region 8-AAAAA, moving to 5-2 in league play and 7-2 overall.
Loganville (2-6, 1-5) had gotten to within 13-7 with just over four minutes to play in the third quarter on a trick play. On fourth-and-seven, Bernard Merriweather took a handoff and threw to a wide open Tony White, and White battled a pair of Patriots' safeties for a 36-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 13-7.
That was all the visitors from Walton County would get.
Sutton answered the Red Devils' score immediately, leading the Patriots on an eight-play drive that culminated with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Cedrick Davenport. After Braxton Morton got his second interception of the night, Myron Fears picked up a nine-yard run to set up first and goal and later, Harrison Kulp's 26-yard field goal made it a 22-7 game.
"Myron Fears, he's such a determined runner. How he goes is how we go," said Heritage coach Chad Frazier, whose team averaged 5.5 yards per carry. "It opens up so much. We had controlled the ground game, I just felt like, 'Don't panic, keep running the football, keep pounding (Loganville) with the run.'"
Heritage struggled throwing the ball a week ago, so instead it had a heavy dose of the rushing attack in the opening half. On the game's opening possession, the Patriots marched down the field, taking just 1:54 to travel 68 yards, the big run coming on Mercer Bradley's 27-yard scamper to the Loganville 13-yard line. Two players later, Sutton scored from a yard out to make it 6-0.
Sutton made his presence felt back in the starter's role with a big run late in the opening quarter. Sutton, who led a ground game that averaged six yards per carry during the first 24 minutes, broke two tackles and scooted down the sideline on a 43-yard touchdown run to put the Patriots up 13-0.
"He came in (and) did a good job of handling the football," Frazier said of Sutton. "Real happy with the way he managed the game."
Loganville's best chance to score in an otherwise uneventful first half came in a second quarter drive where the Red Devils got to the Heritage 34, but on a third-and-long, quarterback Royce Harrison was intercepted by Morton.
The visitors looked to be in prime position to end the shutout early in the third. The Red Devils got a 59-yard completion between Harrison and Alencio Graham where Graham picked up a large chunk of the yardage after the catch. That hookup moved the ball to the 14, but a false start penalty, negative gain on a run and an incompletion preceded a missed 35-yard field goal by Matt Flynn.
"Defense played extremely well. Two major breakdowns, other than that, good night," Frazier said.
Heritage will try to wrap up its third consecutive state playoff appearance in the regular season finale next week at Apalachee. The host Wildcats have won three consecutive games and pulled even in the region at 3-3 with last week's shutout of Salem.
"Biggest game on our schedule; basically the first round of the playoffs for us," Frazier said. "(Apalachee is) playing for their playoff lives because they can't afford to lose one. It's going to be a 12-round heavyweight fight."