Allatoona got it started right off the bat with running back TJ Herron pounding it right at the ML King defense play after play on their first two drives of the game using ball control to keep the explosive ML King offense on the sidelines. On both possession ML King’s defense rose to the occasion both times forcing Allatoona’s Nate Shaw to kick field goals of 23 and 35 yards for a 6-0 Allatoona lead into the second quarter.
“We had the two big drives in the first half and only came away with 3 each time that was a little dagger (pointing to his chest)”, Allatoona head coach Gary Varner said
ML King’s offense would finally get it going behind third-string quarterback Roland Rivers. Rivers hit DJ Polite-Bray on a 30 yard touchdown pass with 2:18 left in the first half. Allatoona would block the extra point leaving the score ties at 6 apiece.
ML King would hold on defense and then strike right back when Rivers hit Rashad Oglesby for a 27-yard touchdown pass with :30 left in the half to give ML King a 12-6 lead and again a bad snap on the extra point led to Allatoona blocking the extra point and leaving the score 12-6 at halftime.
ML King kept it coming in the third quarter scoring on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Donald Clark which was followed by a successful extra point for a 19-6 ML King lead. Allatoona, who came from two touchdowns behind in their opening playoff game win against Heritage-Conyers, would not go away Late in the third quarter Allatoona went back to work and scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jeremy Uzee to Tommy Davis on the final play of the third quarter to pull Allatoona within 6 at 19-13 entering the fourth quarter. Allatoona converted on two fourth down plays on the drive, the latter the touchdown pass to Davis.
ML King’s explosive offense was done for the night as they could not move it enough but the defense was there holding Allatoona in check. However ML King offense could not grind out enough first downs and were forced to punt giving Allatoona the ball back with 3:45 left in the game on their own 27 yard line.
Facing a third-down and twelve Uzee hit Clarence Solberry for a 25-yard gain to midfield to keep the drive alive. Following that play on second down ML King appeared to have recovered a fumble, the officials gave them the ball but after a conference gave the ball back to Allatoona for a third-down and short which the Buccaneers would give it to TJ Herron for the first down and then call their final timeout. After the timeout Allatoona went for the home run ball and got it when Uzee went down the left sideline to Solberry who reeled in the pass and raced into the end zone from 38-yards out to give the Buccaneers the lead with 1:37 remaining 20-19.
“The coaches up top gave me a call down saying if we get the first down go for the stop go because they are starting to jump it really hard so we did and we hit it and the kids made a great throw and catch, sometimes you gotta be lucky”, Varner said on the play-calling late in the game.
ML King was not done as Rivers, making only his second start at quarterback in his career, hit Clark on a 27-yard completion to the Allatoona 46 and Allatoona was hit with a 15-yard personal foul penalty at the end of the play giving ML King the ball at the Allatoona 32. Rivers would hit Oglesby on a 9-yard pass play to the Buccaneers 23 and suddenly ML King was in business armed with all three timeouts and plenty of time. On the next play Rivers went for the end zone going to the left side throwing into double coverage, the pass was underthrown and intercepted by Allatoona’s Terrence Sykes inside the Allatoona 5. ML King’s defense again would hold Allatoona using all three timeouts to give the offense one last shot but ML King only had :07 and the final pass fell short to end the game and give Allatoona the 20-19 victory.
“Our guys showed a lot, they showed a lot of resolve. Their [ML King] quarterback played phenomenal and they took the lead and our kids just believed. It’s our second year in a row making it to the quarters so they kind of have a little bit of belief and this senior class is tough. Everyone has been telling them since we moved up in classification that they would never make it back so it meant a lot to them and they never stopped”, Varner added afterwards.
Uzee finished with 180 yards passing and two touchdowns while Herron rushed for 125 yards on 24 carries for Allatoona. Roland Rivers passed for 3 touchdowns and 220 yards. Neither team committed a turnover in the game.
Allatoona will travel to Whitewater in the quarterfinal round of the Georgia 5A playoffs next week while ML King will circle the wagons and get ready for next season which includes finding a new head coach. Michael Carson resigned one week before the season and defensive back coach Rober Freeman was the teams interim head coach for the season, a season which ended 11-1 with a Region 6 championship but short of the state championship. It was the second consecutive season where ML King entered the playoffs with a banged up quarterback or had to play a backup quarterback in the playoffs.