PERRY -- The Veterans offense awoke in the second half for 24 points and 274 total yards to overcome a sluggish first half and a feisty West Laurens squad 31-21 on Friday night at Herb St. John Stadium.
Junior running back Ben Thomas amassed 137 rushing yards, 124 coming in the final two quarters, to help erase a six-point halftime deficit and secure the Warhawks first playoff berth in school history.
Ben Thomas ran like a warrior (Friday), Veterans head coach David Bruce said. Im very proud of the way he ran the football.
Trailing 13-10 in the third quarter, Veterans took possession at its own 35-yard line and began a 10-play drive capped by sophomore quarterback Logan Byrds 19-yard scamper on a read draw for the first lead of the game.
A West Laurens fumble on the next drive set up the Warhawks just shy of midfield, and the rushing attack went back to work immediately. Thomas powered in from 5 yards out to finish off an 11-play, 52-yard drive and push the advantage to 11 early in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders (2-6) answered quickly, moving 84 yards in just three plays. Following junior quarterback Garrel Quaintons 71-yard hookup with fellow junior Justin Smith, Quainton found senior Bryston Smith in the corner of the end zone. A successful two-point conversion closed the margin to 24-21 with 8:26 remaining in the contest.
Thomas snuffed out any hope of a rally, carrying the Warhawks on a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive on the ensuing possession that consumed more than five minutes.
Junior Desjuan Harris punctuated the drive with a 3-yard plunge for the final margin.
Our kids fought, West Laurens head coach Stacy Nobles said. They could have easily folded it up by now, and they havent done that. They continue to work hard and have great character, and I love them for their effort.
Veterans (5-3) tallied points on each of its first four second-half possessions, only failing to score after intercepting a Quainton pass inside the 10-yard line with just more than a minute remaining to secure the victory. The Warhawks notched scoring drives of nine, 10, 11 and 12 plays in the second half, each one bleeding more than three-and-a-half minutes off the game clock.
We did a much better job blocking, and we did much better job running the ball in the second half, and that was the difference, Bruce said.
A first-quarter field goal gave West Laurens a 3-0 lead, and the Raiders capitalized on a Byrd interception with an eight-play, 43-yard drive finished off by sophomore Greg Colvins 3-yard dive for a 10-0 advantage.
They have a very good football team, Bruce said. Ive been trying to tell anybody who would listen all week. Theyre well-coached, and they play hard.
Byrd took advantage of a third-down broken coverage on the ensuing possession, scrambling away from pressure and hitting senior Chris Watts streaking down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown for what proved to be the Warhawks only real offense of the first half.
Quainton and Smith were stellar in defeat for the Raiders, as the signal-caller threw for 342 yards on the evening, 219 of them to the standout Smith.