It wasn’t expected but Chapel Hill needed a game-winning drive to keep LaGrange winless and clinch a playoff spot.
Facing a one-point deficit with 1:59 left in the fourth quarter, the Panthers needed at least six yards on a fourth-down play.
Chapel Hill junior quarterback K.J. Burton, who didn’t have a great completion percentage up until this point in the contest, managed to connect with a receiver for 10 yards.
With a new set of downs, Burton found his rhythm, completing his next three passes for first downs to place the ball at LaGrange’s 24.
After two rushes for 20 yards, Burton powered his way into the end zone from four yards out for a 23-18 lead with 13 seconds remaining.
Burton, who ran for two touchdowns and passed for another, also rushed for the two-point conversion to extend the margin to seven.
Chapel Hill completed a 25-18 win to secure a playoff spot.
Overall, the Panthers amassed 266 yards of offense on the night to improve to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in Region 5-AAAA. LaGrange ends its season at 0-10.
“I'm extremely proud of our guys for getting to the playoffs two years in a row,” Chapel Hill coach Justin DeShon said. “We’ve got to get ready to beat Cedartown. Hopefully get ourselves into a three spot and have a better chance in the playoffs.”
On their ensuing possession, the Grangers (0-10, 0-6) reached midfield and completed a bunch of laterals before turning the ball over to officially finalize the 25-18 outcome Friday in favor of Chapel Hill.
“I give them a lot of credit, coming in 0-9,” said DeShon, who was disappointed in his team’s performance. “They played their heart out. They took advantage of every opportunity we gave them to stay in the football game. LaGrange is a proud program and they will be back.”
Late in the third quarter, the Panthers lost what was a double-digit lead when Burton fumbled and Cornell Kendrick converted the turnover into a 4-yard touchdown run.
Early in the second quarter, Chapel Hill’s offense woke up to score the first 14 points of the contest.
Miles Richardson sparked the surge first with a 47-yard punt return to the LaGrange 12. On the next play, Burton faked the handoff and sprinted 12 yards into the end zone for a 7-0 edge with 11:35 left in the frame.
Then Richardson placed his stamp on the game again by intercepting Charles Crawford’s pass near the sideline. Three plays later, Richardson reached pay dirt by hauling in a 45-yard TD reception over the middle from Burton for a 14-0 cushion with 9:02 remaining before halftime.
But on their next possession, the Grangers interrupted Chapel Hill’s momentum when Crawford connected with C.J. Scott for a 6-yard touchdown and Koby Patton crossed the goal line for the two-point conversion, resulting in a 14-8 score.
This was the closet the Grangers had come to a potential victory all season.