MT. AIRY — It was almost a flip-flop repeat from last year's annual rival battle at Raider Stadium Friday night.
Last season, Habersham Central rallied back from a 20-point deficit to beat White County. Spin the clock forward a year and White County almost returned the favor but fell short as the Raiders held on to win 42-28. It's the Raiders third-straight win over the Warriors.
"At halftime, we talk about the fact that we were in a similar situation as they were last year and fought back and won," Habersham coach Benji Harrison said. "They probably gave that same speech to their guys at the half. We had a little lapse after they got the onside kick, but our kids bowed their backs defensively and got a stop."
The Raiders exploded for 21 points to take a 21-0 lead at the half, including touchdown runs from Ryte Woodruff and Jackson Clouatre and a 56-yard scoring strike to Joshua Pickett from Woodruff.
Woodruff was 16-23-1 with 300 yards and two touchdowns through the air and rushed for 68 yards and two scores. Pickett caught 10 passes for 193 yards, and Clouatre finished with 10 carries for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
"I thought our offensive line played really well," Harrison said. "Jackson had a big night running the football. It set us up to throw the ball when we wanted to more than when we had to and that's big. When we got the run game going, it opened up our passing game, and we were able to make some big plays."
The big play has been missing from the Raiders arsenal in their first two games of the season -- both losses. Harrison was pleased to see his offense hit the big play Friday night.
"That's what has really been missing," he said. "We can make a mistake here and there but not being able to make the big play hurt us in the first two games. For us to create some big plays tonight was huge. We were able to do that tonight and it helped get us in the end zone."
Woodruff aired it out to Pickett again to open the third quarter when he found him sneaking behind the defense 55 yards downfield with 9:33 to go in the third quarter to go up 27-0.
White County, however, started to chip away at the Raiders' lead and a successful onside kick late in the game helped fuel the comeback.
J Ben Haynes, who finished the night 21-38 passing for 229 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 98 yards an two scores, tossed a 32-yard pass for the Warriors' first score with 41 seconds left in the third quarter.
Habersham answered on its next drive, then White reeled off 21 unanswered to close the gap, 34-28 with 4:03 left in the game.
The Raider offense responded, however, with Clouatre 2-yard run with 3:17 left that capped the 65-yard drive.
"I told our coaches that this is going to be the biggest drive of the night," Harrison said. "If we go three and out and give them the ball back, it could have really gotten interesting. Our guys stayed focused. They really wanted to win that game, because we feel like we've had opportunities the last two weeks and our kids just refused to lose tonight. "Putting together that big drive for the win was big for us."