GAINESVILLE — This one was truly the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat all rolled up in one.
Luke Brown's second-try 43-yard field goal, which would have been good from beyond 50 yards, with two seconds left, lifted North Hall (2-2) past Chestatee, 23-21, in a thrilling finish Friday night at Lynn Cottrell Stadium.
It was Brown's second attempt after the Trojans jumped on the first one. Ironically, the War Eagles (2-2) had blocked the first attempt, from 38 yards, and ran off the field thinking the Trojan's three-game winning streak was over until they saw the yellow flag lying on the field. The false start penalty on the Trojans, with two seconds remaining, gave North Hall another opportunity. Brown took care of the rest.
"We jumped offsides. Thank God for the game works, it's an automatic dead ball, we lose five yards and get to rekick," Bishop said. "Last time that happened, we were playing Ringgold and that extra five yards made us fall short, and we ended up losing in the first round of the state playoffs. This time, Luke busted it through."
It was evident the Trojans were going to put it in the hands, or foot, of Brown to win it. Brown said he was feeling "really nervous" on the first attempt.
"When they jumped off, it kind of calmed me down a little bit," he said. "I got to take my time [on the next try]."
North Hall coach David Bishop said the 20th edition of the annual rivalry was one of the best finishes in the series -- a series the Trojans own, 18-2.
"Especially when both teams are playing as hard as they did," Bishop said. "Both teams deserved to win. Coach Conley and his staff did a tremendous job of getting those guys ready this year. No doubt they're better. They're going to shock a lot of people in their region just because they play as hard as I've ever seen them play. So, I'm very, very proud of our guys."
The finish was a tough blow to a Chestatee team that went toe-to-toe with the Trojans after falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter.
Chestatee coach Shaun Conley was emotional after the game.
"I'm really proud of our kids tonight," he said. "It was a heck of a high school football game. We just didn't make that last play. I told our guys after the game that I still love them, and they still played their hearts out. If we keep doing that, good things will happen to us. Our kids laid it all out there tonight"
The way the game started, it had the makings of another blowout of the War Eagles. North Hall's Bradford Puryear ripped off two long touchdowns runs of 77 and 35 yards in the first quarter to quickly go up 14-0. Puryear finished with 100 yards rushing on six carries and two touchdowns.
Then the game turned into a true rivalry battle.
In the second quarter, the War Eagles' offense settled down and started moving the ball. Luke Bornhorst directed his team on an incredible drive to break the drought, culminating with a 39-yard pass to Christian Jarrard to the North Hall two-yard line, and two plays later, the senior quarterback danced in from two yards out. The extra point was no good, leaving the Trojans ahead, 14-6. Bornhorst was 13-of-37 for 197 yards passing and a touchdown.
But the War Eagles got the missed extra point, plus one more point back late in the second quarter when Jeronimo Marin tackled Clay Stover in the end zone for a safety, and a minute later, Bornhorst connected with Hunter Fouche (4-97 yards and one touchdown) on a 50-yard strike for paydirt and the lead, 15-14.
The first half was just the precursor to what was to come in the final two quarters -- a true hard-nosed fistfight at The Brickyard.
After a scoreless third quarter, Kevin Rochester, who powered through cramps all night long, rushed into the end zone early in the third quarter for the lead, 20-15. The two-point conversion failed with 10:04 left.
Rochester churned out a game-high 183 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
Spin the game clock forward to 4:59 to go in the final period, and Chestatee began its march toward the end zone from their six-yard line.
Bornhorst connected with Hayden Gowin, who finished with seven catches for 114 yards, 50 yards downfield on 3rd down. Later in the drive, the War Eagles were staring a 4th down and eight yards to go. Bornhorst answered again, hitting Mattox Miller across the middle on a nine-yard pass to the Trojans' eight-yard line. After a five-yard movement penalty on the offense, Bornhorst found Drew Knickle on a 15-yard pass for the go-ahead score with 4:59 to go.
The Trojans had plenty of time to execute, and even though they finished with 377 rushing yards, it was the passing game that ultimately saved the day on the final drive. Puryear nailed Alex Brown on a slant pass on 3rd down and 16 for a first down. The rest is now history.
"Relief and emotional excitement, no doubt," Bishop said about the ending. "It was a hard-fought game. Either side, the emotion for those guys at Chestatee to lose that way, and then for our kids to win that way coming down last second, makes a big difference."