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Late touchdown gives Heritage opening night win

NEWNAN — It took Heritage nearly the entire game to pull ahead of Northgate in Friday’s season opener, but no one from the Conyers school was complaining. Ryan Sutton capped an 80-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run with 12 seconds left and the Patriots defeated Northgate 14-7 at Henry Seldon Field.

Heritage (1-0) trying to return to the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, slipped by Northgate for the second consecutive season. In the 2012 opener, Heritage won 9-7 in Conyers.

“Offensively we struggled a little bit, we did it when we needed it and that was big for us,” first-year Heritage coach Mike Parris said. “These young guys found a way to score in the end. I was very happy.”

The Heritage defense, which should once again be a formidable unit, recovered a first quarter fumble and the visitors grabbed their first lead on C.J. Stone’s 12-yard touchdown run. Northgate tied the game late in the third quarter when the Heritage punt team inexplicably downed the ball at their own one-yard line and the Vikings took three plays to get in the end zone and tie it at 7-7.

Otherwise, the Patriots’ defense (allowed an average of 14.6 points in 2012) was excellent.

“We feel good on defense,” Parris said. “Early on in the year, doesn’t matter where you are, your defense is going to be ahead of your offense. Hopefully we can catch up offensively.”

Heritage will host crosstown rival Rockdale next weekend. The Bulldogs shut out Salem 20-0 Friday.

“It’s going to be fun. I think it’ll be fun,” Parris said. “It’ll be a good football game, we’re looking forward to it.”