GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Camden Smith was a pain in East Forsyth’s behind all night.
The junior quarterback rushed for 168 yards, including a 70-yard punt return for a TD to lead Madison County to a comeback win over East Forsyth, 42-34, Thursday at Bronco Stadium.
Smith’s 70-yard punt return jump-started the Red Raiders’ second-half comeback, out-scoring the Broncos 28-10.
"We gave them a little bit of fire right there [with the punt return]. Once it started, it just started snowballing, and we couldn't recover," East Forsyth coach Brian Allison said. "We were not taking care of our option responsibilities as we should. But hats off to them, their quarterback [Camden Smith] did a great job of running the ball and the offense."
It was a gut-wrenching loss for the Broncos and has their playoff hopes hanging by a limb. Going into the game, a win would have kept the Broncos in play for a home playoff game. Now, the loss drops to fourth in the region with two games remaining -- Chestatee and North Hall.
The playoffs are still in play, however. If the Broncos win the next two, they should punch the playoff ticket. If they lose both or win one of the two, they're most likely out.
"We've got two games left; if we win those two, I think we've got a really good chance to get into the playoffs," Allison said. "If we lose one of those two, then we won't. That was one of our goals to get in the playoffs."
Despite the loss, East Forsyth churned out 423 total yards of offense. Brock Szakacs finished 23-of-37 for 219 yards passing. David Navarette hauled in 92 of those yards on seven catches. Joey Hudson led the Broncos' rushing attack with 16 carries for 73 yards.
As for the game, the Broncos started strong on both sides of the ball, stuffing the Red Raiders on their opening drive and holding on a 4th and 3. The defensive play powered the Bronco offense, going up 10-0 on a 20-yard Luke Droegemueller field goal and a 14-yard Will Moffit touchdown run with 43.2 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Even though the Red Raiders cut the lead to a field goal, 17-14, on a 67-yard Jacob Beusse run and a 37-yard TD pass from Smith to Victor Hajdu, the Broncos were still clicking on offense and special teams in the second quarter. Szakacs nailed Navarette on a 27-yard TD pass, and after Madison County's final first-half score, Navarette took the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for paydirt and a 24-14 lead at halftime.
East Forsyth sputtered on its opening drive of the second half but got the ball back on Madison County's next drive when Troy Hoover fell on a Red Raider fumble. Moffit scored five plays later on a 37-yard run. Droegemueller's extra point gave the Broncos a commanding 31-14 advantage.
It looked as if the Broncos would continue to build the lead as Cameron Frady pounced on another Red Raider fumble, but the offense couldn't do anything with it.
Then, it started to unravel for the Broncos.
Madison County reeled off 14 unanswered points, all scored by Smith -- a 70-yard punt return and a 45-yard rushing score, cutting the lead 31-28.
"They made adjustments on defense, putting six and seven in the box, and they were playing us man on the edge," Allison said. "In the third quarter, it took us a minute to figure it out. Once we did, we started moving it. But we can't get behind and play catch up."
East Forsyth tried to answer and needed a touchdown instead of a field goal with just over 7 minutes left in the game, leading 31-28. They drove the ball inside the Madison County 10-yard line on the next drive, but a penalty pushed them back, forcing the Broncos to settle for a Droegemueller 36-yard field and a 34-28 lead with 7:26 to go.
"We're up three, and we've got first and goal inside the 10; we've got to get in the endzone," Allison said. "That's about three times this year, and it has cost us two ball games that we can't get it in the end zone when we're inside the 10."
Curion Hyche pushed the Red Raiders ahead on their next possession, capping a 68-yard drive with a 2-yard run and a 35-34 lead.
The Broncos had three chances to score in the final 4 minutes but couldn't move the ball.
Madison added its final touchdown as Hyche came out of the pile and sprinted 28-yards for a 42-34 lead with 2:40 to go.
"Offensively, we didn't turn it over," Allison said. We're doing some really good things; we're just not finishing. We'll be better Monday; we'll improve and see where we're at."