HAWKINSVILLE -- Other than one late-game drive, Hawkinsville’s defense bottled up Charlton County on Friday in the GHSA Class A public school quarterfinals, limiting the Indians to just one score through the course of the entire game played on a chilly late-afternoon at Bobby Gentry Stadium.
The Red Devils atoned for the surrendered touchdown in overtime, pouncing on a fumble to win 12-6. Hawkinsville (11-1) faces Marion County, the only team to beat the Red Devils this season (a 13-6 defeat on Oct. 17) in next week’s semifinals. The game will also be a rematch of last year’s semifinals, a game won 40-7 by Marion County.
“We’ve been talking about that for a long time,” Hawkinsville head coach David Daniell said. “Ever since we played over there, it’s been our goal to get back to Marion County and make it to Atlanta.”
Hawkinsville led 6-0 until 25 seconds to play in the game when Charlton County quarterback Jimmy Nettles found Scott Birchall in the end zone to tie the score and cap a 95-yard drive. The extra point was missed, sending the game to overtime.
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The Red Devils wasted no time scoring once overtime began. On their first play from scrimmage, quarterback Dakota Sloan hooked up with tight end Royce Owens, who was wide open in the end zone from 15 yards out. The extra point missed, forcing the Hawkinsville faithful to count on the defense for one more stand.
A forced fumble on the Indians’ first snap clinched the win to cap a sterling defensive showing on both sides.
“It was just two very good football teams going at it,” Daniell said. “It was a good old fashioned slobberknocker, I guess you’d call it.”
The defensive units from both teams flustered the opposing offenses all game long. Charlton County held the Hawkinsville ground game to 121 yards, with the Red Devils’ defensive front harassing Nettles to keep the Indians’ passing game limited.
“The front three is just unbelievable; they battle,” Daniell said. “They allow us to do some things in the secondary because they get pressure with just three guys. Normally, you can’t do that.”
Nettles was brought down behind the line of scrimmage a total of six times with Owens and Keshaun Wright wreaking havoc from their defensive end positions, along with nose tackle Devin Adams.
“We just basically depend on each other and have each others’ back,” Wright said. “We’re going to go out there keep fighting.”
How dominant were the two defenses? With five minutes to go in the game, Hawkinsville and Charlton County had combined for a total of five plays of 10 yards or more.
The Red Devils led 6-0 on a 1-yard run by Tyrone Wright on the first play of the second quarter, which followed passes of 25 yards to Cal George and 57 to PJ Thompson. Even though the extra-point try was missed, the score moved Hawkinsville into the lead, and it leaned heavily on its defense time after time.
“We just did what we had to do and stand up,” Wright said.