SUGAR HILL -- Just when things looked their darkest, Chestatee was able to find just enough light to keep its Region 8-AAAA title hopes alive.
Trailing 7-0 to Lanier the entire game and failing on their fourth fourth down play of the game with just over six minutes left, the War Eagles needed somebody, anybody, to make a play.
The special teams answered the call. The War Eagles blocked a punt, ran it in for a touchdown to tie the game with just under four minutes left, and used that as a catalyst to rally for a thrilling, if not improbable, 20-17 double-overtime win over the Longhorns Friday night.
Senior quarterback Wyatt Burgess capped the amazing finish with a 3-yard dive into the end zone in the second overtime for the win.
Burgess admitted they were concerned after being stopped yet again in the Longhorns territory. But things changed on what was supposed to be a routine punt.
"That saved the game," he said. "It was getting a little tense. Both defenses were playing tough. We felt we could get the ball back but blocking the punt was better. On the touchdown I just found a little daylight and was able to get in. It was an amazing feeling."
Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said he never lost faith in his team - even when things looked bleak.
"Both teams played great defense but we found a way to win," Luttrell said. "I don't know who blocked the punt but William was able to get to the ball. A great play.
"But this team doesn't know how to quit. Really, I wasn't too worried. We've found ways to win all year long. I can't say enough about how proud I am of them."
The win keeps the War Eagles (6-1, 5-0 Region 8-AAAA) on top in the region and just two weeks away from what they hope is a showdown for the region title against No. 4 Monroe Area.
"I haven't seen Monroe and we have Lumpkin (County) next week but we are playing well and the defense has just been lights out the last three or four games. I hope we're in position to do something special then," Luttrell said.
After Lanier (5-2, 2-2) got the first break of the game early in the first quarter, neither team looked like they would be able to score again as both defenses took control.
Chestatee actually stopped Lanier on its first possession of the game but a roughing the kicker penalty on the punt gave the Longhorns new life. The War Eagles again appeared to have Lanier stopped sacking Canyon Cook on third down setting up a 4th-and-12 from the Chestatee 30.
But Cook would connect with Devin Valentine for a 30-yard touchdown to give the Longhorns a 7-0 lead after a Ryan Edwards extra point with 7:07 left in the first quarter.
It stayed that way until the blocked punt.
The defenses would dominate from there the rest of the first half. Chestatee managed just two first downs in the first quarter and was stopped on a 4th-and-2 at the Lanier 48 on the first play of the second quarter.
Chestatee would sack Cook on consecutive plays to stop the Longhorns next drive. But the War Eagles would go three-and-out on their next two possessions.
The Chestatee defense would give the War Eagles their first break recovering a Cook fumble at the Longhorns 37 with just over two minutes left in the first half. But the Lanier defense would stuff Chestatee again on fourth down in the final minute of the half.
Chestatee's Justin Spears, however, would pick off a Cook pass three plays later and return it 23 yards to the Lanier 23 with nine seconds left. Burgess, however, would be sacked with 2.2 seconds left and Eddie Zamora would just miss a 47-yard field goal as time expired to end the half.
The two defenses again clamped down on the offenses in the second half. They traded punts throughout the third quarter.
Chestatee had the best opportunity driving to the Lanier 15 midway through the fourth quarter. But the War Eagles were stopped on downs after a critical penalty on third down that would have given a 1st-and goal at the Lanier 6.
That's when the Chestatee special teams changed the game.
After stopping on Lanier three plays, the War Eagles blocked Mason Harwood's punt and Fayson raced 15 yards for the touchdown. A Zamora extra point tied the game at 7-7 with just 3:52 left in the game.
In the first overtime, Chestatee got another break when Tray Bryant fumbled going into the end zone but Khalil Cantrell jumped on the ball in the pile for the touchdown. Lanier would answer quickly when Cook connected with Timothy Leazer on a 14-yard pass to tie the game at 14.
In the second overtime, the Chestatee defense got the big play sacking Cook again forcing a 40-yard field goal by Harwood for a 17-14 Lanier lead.
The War Eagles would need just three plays to cap the come-from-behind win as Burgess dove in from 3-yards out for the game-winner.
Chestatee....0....0....0....7....7....6 -- 20
Lanier..........7.....0....0....0....7....3 -- 17
LAN -- Valentine 30 pass from Cook (Edwards kick) 7-0, 7:07
CHS -- Fayson 15 blocked punt return (Zamora kick) 7-7, 3:52
CHS -- Cantrell fumble recovery in end zone (Zamora kick) 14-7
LAN -- Leazer 14 pass from Cook (Edwards kick) 14-14
LAN -- Harwood 40 FG 17-14
CHS -- Burgess 3 run 20-17