If Friday night's 17-16 win over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe is any indication of how this high school football season is going to go for the Heritage Generals, coach E.K. Slaughter may show a few more miles come December.
Heritage fell behind 14-0, scored the next 17 points and held on through a sloppy, penalty-ridden second half to earn the win over its Catoosa County rival.
The Generals, who were outgained 311 yards to 210, overcame 17 penalties for 177 yards. They also forced a pair of critical LFO fumbles, including one inside the Heritage 5-yard line in the final two minutes.
"I can't even remember all the crazy plays and penalties," Slaughter said with a grin. "It was an ugly one, but at the end of the day it's a 'W,' and that's all we care about. It was real easy for all the stuff that happened in the second half for either side to quit, but they didn't."
The Warriors dominated play early, putting together two long touchdown drives. Jevonney Womble capped a 78-yard drive with a 38-yard run to end the first quarter.
A defensive three-and-out forced a punt, the return aided by the second of seven personal-foul calls on the Generals, setting up LFO at the Heritage 48. Following a holding penalty on LFO, quarterback Malachi Powell hit a streaking Jacob King down the right sideline for a 58-yard touchdown. Womble's 2-point run was good, pushing the score to 14-0.
The Generals regrouped behind junior quarterback Nick Hanson, who was 3-for-3 on the ensuing drive (after a 1-for-6 start) for 41 yards, the final 16 on a screen pass to Maddox Rose for a touchdown.
They added a safety moments later when an LFO punt snap sailed through the end zone, and later in the half, following a 53-yard Womble run, Heritage stopped the drive with a forced fumble inside the final minute to keep the LFO halftime lead at 14-9.
Following a penalty-laced third quarter, Heritage took over at its 47 and needed just six plays to take the lead, all on the ground behind a suddenly inspired offensive line. Rose had the final five carries for 39 yards, capping the drive with a 4-yard run and a 2-point conversion run for a 17-14 lead.
The Warriors, with the ground game stymied after the quick start, used a 25-yard third-down pass from Powell to Womble to reach midfield with under seven minutes to play. Hard running by Josh Haveman and Powell pushed the drive to the Heritage 4, but on first-and-goal a fumbled handoff was recovered by Heritage's Matthew Jackson with 2:20 to play.
Instead of running out the clock, though, Heritage on the next play was called for a safety as Hanson recovered a bad snap and stepped on the end line, cutting its lead to one. A great free kick by Anderson Britton pinned LFO at its 25, but two personal fouls on Heritage on the same play moved the ball inside the 50.
Three runs netted 7 yards, and on fourth down Rose cut in off the left side of the defense and tackled Haveman for a yard gain, turning the ball back over to the Generals. A third-down defensive chop-block penalty on LFO ended any comeback hopes.
"I am very, very proud of all our guys for how hard they played. I couldn't have asked for anything else," LFO coach Bo Campbell said. "Sure, they made some mistakes at critical times, but they played their tails off and that's all a coach could ask. I told them, in my mind, you guys won that game."