Warriors Fall Short in Hard-Fought 20-17 OT Loss Against Pebblebrook

Dave Quick
Senior Co-Captain Ned Coleman (#18) and Senior Tony Moore receive instructions from Defensive Coordinator Kevin Jones.

Fresh off a 35-0 beatdown of arch-rival Grady, North Atlanta was looking to extend its undefeated streak in their 3rd and final non-conference game against a 4-1 Pebblebrook squad on October 9. Contrasting the warm temperature and clear skies that marked their prior game, conditions for the Pebblebrook certainly weren’t pretty. A soaked field and rainy conditions delayed the start time of the game by more than 30 minutes as the clouds turned pitch black. The dark, damp, and still-empty atmosphere set up for a cold, wet showdown between the Warriors and the Falcons at Grady Stadium. 

The Warriors started the game off on offense, however their first drive was killed by a questionable intentional grounding penalty. Luckily for the Warriors, Pebblebrook botched a snap on their opening possession, which caused the ball to roll back 20 yards and lead to an eventual North Atlanta recovery after a long fight for the football. The offense cashed in on the turnover, as quarterback Jack O’Kelley rolled out and delivered a touchdown to favorite target Ned Coleman on a well-run play-action play. Coleman’s third touchdown of the season set the Warriors up with an early 7-0 lead to start the first quarter. After almost recovering an onside kick, the Warriors started off neutralizing the Pebblebrook run game, as senior David Howard made several plays in the Falcons’ backfield. At the end of defensively-dominated first quarter, Falcons running back Dwight Phillips ran by the Dubs defense for a 64 yard touchdown, tying the score 7-7 before the start of the second quarter.

The second quarter epitomized the theme of the whole game, which was a defensive battle that featured very little offense on both sides. Despite their success against Grady, the North Atlanta offense found it difficult to muster a first down against the stout Pebblebrook defense. The Falcons faced similar issues on offense, as they also had issues trying to move the ball on the Warriors. A volley of punts and great defensive plays including big tackles by seniors Vance Linton and Che’ Osborne prevented any scoring from either side. However, when it looked like the Falcons were going to capitalize off of a long-term field position battle that set them up in position to score, senior Ned Coleman made another big play and sacked the Pebblebrook quarterback as the first half came to a close.

Following a great defensive start of the half, the Warriors took over in enemy territory at the 34 yard-line, which led to an eventual 19-yard rushing touchdown by senior running back Tre Mason. The Dubs finally broke the tie that lasted for over a quarter, as they now led the Falcons 14-7. The defense rode off of the momentum of the touchdown, as the Warriors front 7 once again swarmed the Pebblebrook quarterback on a key third down. Despite a 23 yard screen play from Sayir Stewart that set North Atlanta up at the Falcons 37-yard line, the Dubs were not able to score. However, they did bring running back Tre Mason on the field for an interesting punt that pinned Pebblebrook inside their own 10 yard line to end the 3rd quarter.

Following two 3rd and 10+ yard conversions, the Falcons tied up the score once again after a 39 yard passing touchdown that resulted from several broken tackles. Every word could be heard throughout the stadium as tensions increased, whether it was the players echoing calls on the field, coaches cursing at players from the sideline, or coordinators screaming from the booth. The defenses continued to dominate, as the start of the final quarter saw little offense. Following a near-safety, the Warriors brought the ball up slightly before having to forcibly punt due to a penalty. Despite a strong punt, the Falcons drove down the field following missed tackles and questionable missed holding calls. However, Syre Stewart came back into the game after being injured to make a clutch interception with under 30 seconds to go to send the game to overtime.

High school football overtime rules differ from those seen in college and the NFL, as each team alternates possessions on the opposing team’s 10 yard line, allowing for high-scoring potential. Following a field goal from senior Jacob Pierce to put the Dubs up 17-14, the Falcons scored a touchdown on the first play of their possession, icing the game 20-17. 

Team leaders expressed the normative amounts of frustration that comes in the wake of dropping such a hard-fought, likely winnable game. “This was one that slipped away from us and across the team that was the feeling,” said team leader Stewart. “The question for us is what we do with that feeling. Let’s channel that toward something positive.”

The Pebblebrook game marked the much-anticipated return to play of senior linebacker Amari Hodges who returned — hand and arm still in a cast — from an injury that sidelined him from the first games of the season. The spirited leader of the defensive squad shared his teammate’s sense of frustration about the loss on the soggy night. “Some mistakes really cost us,” he said. “When you’re playing a quality opponent you can’t slip up even one time. And we’re just going to have to remember that. But I love that these guys never stop fighting.”    

Despite an unfortunate outcome, the Warriors fought fiercely and to the end against a Pebblebrook team that just seemed more-talented. Although a win would have been amazing for the program, the Dubs still showed that they won’t go down without a fight. North Atlanta will look to rebound this Friday October 16 as they will travel to Tucker High School to take on the Tigers to kick off conference play. Go Dubs!