ROBERTA -- Less than a half of football was played on a cold Monday night at Crawford County.
Macon County, Northeast and Taylor County found a way to fit a season’s worth of drama into about 22 minutes of football in a pair of mini-games to determine the final two playoff spots from Region 4-AA. The region didn’t have a tiebreaker set for a tie with three teams beating each other during the season, so the GHSA constitution and by-laws call for a mini-game playoff of two five-minutes halves and overtime in the case of tie in regulation.
There was a game-ending shoulder injury to a starting quarterback on the opening play of the game, a fourth-down conversion that led to a game-winning field goal, a field goal attempt with 0.1 seconds left that was blocked, a touchdown negated for offensive pass interference and a game-winning stop on fourth-and-inches.
By night’s end, Macon County defeated Taylor County 3-0 -- Taylor County beat Macon County 7-0 on Friday -- and Taylor County beat Northeast 7-0 to earn the two playoff spots. Both results were reversals of the regular-season matchups.
Despite losing the first mini-game, the Vikings received the No. 3 seed because of the regular-season win over the Bulldogs.
“It’s crazy,” Taylor County head coach Chris Kirksey said. “Just crazy. I kept looking at the scenarios, and I just kept getting more confused.”
The prizes: Taylor County (6-4) will travel to Vidalia (9-1) and Macon County (6-4) heads to undefeated Benedictine. Despite having the best record of the three, Northeast (7-3) will miss the playoffs for just the second time since 2008.
Northeast head coach Bruce Mullen said he thought his team was at a disadvantage because it only got one shot to win Monday, while the other two were guaranteed a second opportunity if they lost the first game.
That edge appeared to disappear when Taylor County quarterback James Whiteman hurt his throwing shoulder on the first playoff of the mini-game with Macon County. Whiteman left the field in a sling, and Kirksey said he is out for the playoffs.
The Vikings struggled to move the ball in both mini-games, running what Kirksey called a “vanilla offense” with backup Kelby Monts at quarterback.
Macon County didn’t get much going either until the final drive of mini-game one. The Bulldogs converted a fourth-and-1 from their own 35 on a 3-yard run by Roquan Smith. They connected on four more first-down passes on the drive to eventually get to the 6-yard line. David Saldana made the 23-yard field goal as time expired to send the Bulldogs to the playoffs.
“I love that kid David Saldana, baby,” Macon County head coach Larry Harold said. “They said Macon County ain’t had a kicker like that in a long, long time, and he paid dividends (Monday).
Many of the players from Taylor County appeared stunned by the loss, perhaps forgetting they still had another shot. Much like the first mini-game, offense was in short supply in game two.
Northeast did move the ball to around midfield, and quarterback Davion Anderson found Ta’Korian Denson for a 50-yard touchdown in the final minute of the game. Denson was called for offensive pass interference, however, and Northeast eventually failed to convert on fourth-and-25 around midfield.
Taylor County moved the ball inside the Northeast 30 and got lucky when a final-second heave to the end zone left a tenth of a second on the clock. The Vikings attempted a 42-yard field goal, but the Raiders blocked it. Anderson grabbed the ball, but a bobble stopped his momentum or he might have been able to take it back for a game-winning touchdown.
Monts scored on a quarterback keeper from 15 yards out to start overtime.
After a penalty pushed the Raiders back to start the drive, the coaches called a quarterback sneak for Anderson on fourth-and-inches. The offensive line didn’t get a push, and the ball was spotted short of the marker to give the Vikings -- who had already started sprinting across the field in celebration before the measurement occurred -- the 7-0 win.