“No one gave us a chance,” said eighth-year Griffin head coach Steve DeVoursney.
DeVournsey, himself, had his doubts too. I caught myself the middle of the week thinking we might not have a chance, said DeVoursney, who then changed his tone. It reflected in his team’s play Friday night
Griffin - which had to make a 4 1/2-hour bus ride to Brunswick - however, got off to a slow start when Brunswick senior Darius Slade returned the opening kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead after a two-point conversion pass failed
How did Griffin respond? By putting together a 10-play, 67-yard scoring drive that started with a 13-yard run by Buck Hancock (20 carries for 164 yards) and ended on a 13-yard TD run by his cousin, Sheldon Hancock -who ended the night with a game-high 175 yards on 27 carries - to give the Bears a 7-6 lead after kicker Edward Glanton laced the extra point through the uprights.
Griffin upped its lead two minutes into the second quarter on a drive that started when Xzavier Dickson blocked a punt at the BHS 20 that was recovered by Kentorius Jackson and advanced a to the Brunswick 11. Three plays later Sheldon Hancock had the second of his co-career high four touchdowns of the game as he punched in a run from 3 yards out and Glanton added the extra point to put Griffin ahead 14-6.
Brunswick, however, was quick to answer as Harold Small, the Pirates leading rusher in the game (11 for 84), broke off a 62-yard TD run untouched up the middle on the first play from scrimmage of the ensuing drive to make it 14-12 when the two-point conversion run failed.
DeVoursney opted to go for it on 4th-and-3 from GHS’s own 42 with on the ensuing drive, but Griffin lost the ball on downs with 5:27 to play in the half. It led to a 6-yard TD pass from Davis Hoyt (who completed 18-of-26 for 209 and a pair of TDs) to Wesley Smith with :14 left in the half to put the Pirates ahead 18-14 after another two-point conversion attempt failed. Hoyt then gave his team its largest lead of the night, 24-14, when he threw a 38-yard TD pass to Slay on BHS’s first possession of the second half.
Griffin, however, responded with three consecutive scoring drives. The first ended on a 3-yard run by Sheldon Hancock to cut into the Pirates’ lead. The second, set up by an on-side kick recovered by Denarius Appling at the BHS 44, ended on a 1-yard run by Sheldon Hancock and put the Bears back in the lead 27-24. The last, which provided the eventual game-winning points, ended when Buck Hancock broke of a 42-yard scoring run with 10:29 to play.
Brunswick (9-3), however, was not without a comeback bid as on 3rd-and-20, Hoyt found Harold Small on a 27-yard pass (that deflected off a GHS defensive back’s shoulder pads) and brought the ball down to the GHS 1. A play later Small had his second TD run of the night to leave his team trailing 34-30 with 8:07 to play.
Once again, on the ensuing drive, DeVoursney opted to go for it on 4th-and-6 from the Brunswick 41 and once again - for the third time in the game - Griffin turned the ball over on downs, this time with 3:23 to play.
The Pirates, trying to keep alive their seven-game win streak, charged toward the Griffin goal line as Hoyt picked up a 13-yard run and then threw passes of 6, 5, 10 and then 5 again to bring the ball down to the Griffin 22 with under a minute to play.
On second down he was sacked by Telvin Nash and Walter Forts for a 5-yard loss. Facing a 2nd-and-five with no time outs left and the clock winding down, Hoyt was forced to spike the ball, setting up a 4tha-and-11 from the Griffin 27 with 6.8 seconds on the clock.
Nash sacked him with .9 seconds left on the clock. Waller then marched the offense out, it assumed the victory formation and Waller took a knee as Griffin (9-3) won its sixth game in a row and advanced to the state quarterfinals for the third time in the last five seasons.
Griffin will host Southwest-DeKalb (9-3), 13-0 winners Friday against Cedar Shoals, in the state quarterfinals Friday at Memorial Stadium. The two schools last met on the gridiron in the season opener in 2001, a 12-7 Griffin win in DeVoursney’s first year as full-time head coach at Griffin.