DALTON, Ga. - The eighth time was (finally) the charm for Christian Heritage.
Gage Leonard's 3-yard touchdown run gave the host Lions a 31-24 lead over Darlington with less than a minute to play Friday night, and the defense withstood a late drive that ended with an incomplete pass in the end zone to give Christian Heritage its first win over the Tigers in eight games.
The previous two contests ended with Darlington rallying for wins, including a score in the final minute last year.
The Tigers (4-3, 1-1 GHSA Region 7-A private) rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to go up 21-17 when Patrick Shelley returned a fumble for a score and moments later hooked up with Thomas Bethel for a touchdown pass. Christian Heritage quarterback Christian Thomas answered right back with a 31-yard scoring pass to Tucker Jordan, but interceptions by Darlington's Thomas Speed on consecutive drives and a field goal tied the game at 24 early in the final quarter.
Thomas ignited the Lions' winning drive, which began with 2:14 to play, with a 25-yard run to the Darlington 24, and four plays later, Leonard scored with 47 seconds left. Darlington, led by backup quarterback Jack Payne, drove to the Lions' 19, but with one second left his pass into the end zone fell incomplete.
Riley Reece scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone for the game's first points, while Leonard added a 43-yard touchdown catch. Shelley threw for two touchdowns for Darlington.
Northwest Whitfield 31, Heritage 27: The Bruins (5-2, 1-2 Region 7-AAAA) won a thriller at Heritage as Owen Brooker ran for two touchdowns and passed for another to avenge last year's 30-22 loss. His 1-yard sneak on fourth down gave Northwest the lead with 5:50 to play, and a defense led by Daylon Cowart and Conner Cummings stopped the Generals (4-4, 1-2) at midfield to seal the win.
"Words can't describe how big this one is," Bruins coach Josh Robinson said. "We've got a chance to scratch and claw and make the playoffs, and if we can win our last two, a home playoff game is not out of the question."
Brooker also scored on a 3-yard run to tie the game at 17 at halftime, then connected with Ray Morrison for a 37-yard touchdown. Heritage came back to lead 27-24 when Nick Hanson hit Bryce Travillion on a 14-yard pass, but the Bruins responded on the ensuing drive to take control for good.
Calhoun 38, Woodland-Bartow 0: Christian Lewis threw four touchdown passes as the big-play Yellow Jackets improved to 6-2 overall, 2-1 in 7-AAAAA. Lewis connected twice with Quin Smith on passes of 67 and 17 yards and twice more with leading receiver Cole Speer for 49 and 65 yards. Jerrian Hames scored for Calhoun on a 59-yard run.
Cedartown 56, Ridgeland 21: Cedric Washington had two first-quarter touchdown runs, and quarterback Jayden Johnson ran for two scores and added another on an interception return as the Bulldogs (5-2, 3-0 7-AAAA) rolled to a 36-0 halftime lead.
LaFayette 21, Coahulla Creek 3: Jaylon Ramsey ran for a pair of touchdowns and passed for another for the Ramblers (3-3, 3-1 Region 6-AAA). Ramsey hooked up with Dawson Pendergrass for a 28-yard touchdown to start the scoring, then added runs of 25 and 29 yards.
Dade County 19, Chattooga 14: The Wolverines, who came in as one of the top passing teams in the area, took to the ground for the Region 7-AA win. Cody Williams ran for 141 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback McKinley Everett added 104 rushing yards and passed for 60 and a touchdown. Dade (2-5, 1-2) held star running back Lashaun Lester of Chattooga (2-4, 1-1) to 61 rushing yards.
North Murray 33, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 13: Seth Griffin passed for one touchdown and ran for another as the Mountaineers (4-2, 4-1 Region 6-AAA) won. After Griffin scored on a 14-yard run to start the game, he hit Cade Petty with a 5-yard touchdown pass. Dante Tidwell made it 21-0 with a 20-yard run, and Petty scored the game's final points on a 31-yard run. Jacob Brown scored for LFO (1-5, 1-3).
Other area finals: Gordon Central 22, Coosa 7; Rockmart 49, Murray County 0; Adairsville 32, Sonoraville 0; B.E.S.T. Academy 16, Trion 6.