LITHONIA — Habersham Central rallied from a 28-point deficit to shock Shiloh 45-37 Saturday in a huge Region 8-6A game that secured the No. 3 playoff spot in the Class 6A playoffs.
Habersham Central coach Benji Harrison said there was no panic after the early Generals barrage. The Raiders (6-4, 4-2 Region 8-6A) exploded for 31 unanswered points in the second half to take the lead for good.
“We could see on the sideline that they weren’t ready for their season to end and that they weren’t going to quit,” he said. “The seniors have led this group all year and they believed. We believe in our players and they were unbelievable in the second half.”
However, if it could go wrong for the Raiders in the first quarter, it did. They blocked a punt on Shiloh’s opening possession but a missed call by the referees gave the Generals back the ball and they later scored on a 35-yard run by Myles Smith.
Then two Joshua Pickett interceptions and a Grayson Taylor fumble after a first down pass on three consecutive possessions led to 21 Shiloh points and a stunning 28-0 lead with 8:56 left in the first half.
But the Raiders went back to what they do best: pound the ball against opposing defenses.
Jackson Clouatre rambled for 39-yards and Pickett scored on a 17-yard run one play later to cut the lead to 28-7. On their next possession, Pickett connected with Taylor on a 44-yard pass to the Shiloh 18 and then Pickett finished the drive with a 13-yard TD run to trim it to 28-14.
Shiloh kicked a late field goal to push the lead to 31-14 at halftime but Habersham picked up right where it left off in the second quarter. The Generals stopped Habersham on the opening drive of the second half but fumbled the ensuing punt and Pickett scored two plays later on a 14-yard scramble to make it 31-21.
On the next Shiloh possession, the Generals’ punter dropped the snap and that set up a 32-yard field goal by sophomore Sam Guest, his first-ever varsity field goal, to cut it to 31-24.
On the next Raiders possession, Clouatre ripped off runs of 27 and 10 yards and then finished the drive with a 4-yard TD run to tie the game at 31 with 10 minutes left. Habersham took the lead for good five minutes later when Pickett and Taylor connected on a 56-yard touchdown pass for a 38-31 advantage.
Taylor then made a huge play on defense stopping a Generals receiver at midfield just feet short of a first down and three plays later Pickett scored his fourth touchdown of the day on a 64-yard blast on third down.
Shiloh scored a touchdown on the final play as time expired for the final score.
Pickett finished with 162 yards rushing and Clouatre had 100 yards as Habersham piled up 262 yards on the ground. Pickett was 7-for-11 passing for 142 yards while Taylor hauled in 3 catches for 121 yards receiving.
“I never thought (a comeback) was unbelievable. I’ve seen what these kids can do and they never ever quit,” Harrison said. “It was pretty cool to watch though.”
Now Habersham will get ready to travel to Region 5-6A No. 2 seed Rome next week in the first round of the playoffs.
“They’re a good team and we’re going to have to play our best game of the season,” Harrison said. ”But I like how we’re playing right now. This is the second time in three years these seniors have been to the playoffs and I feel like they know what they need to do. We’ll be ready.”