Athens had the odds stacked against it in the final 30 seconds of the game.
Though Athens had the lead, the Vinton County was just three yards away from the end zone and seconds away from beating the Bulldogs for the first time in 11 years.
On a fourth-and-2 play, Vikings quarterback Braylon Damron took the snap and handed the ball to Jacob Wells. The running back tried to break free just as he had all night long, but was stopped short by a pack of Athens defenders.
The turnover on downs silenced both the Vinton County (2-3, 1-1) stands and sideline, as the Bulldogs (2-3, 2-0) hung on to beat the Vikings 33-28 after one of the wildest fourth quarter sequences the team had seen this season.
“It was very up and down,” coach Nathan White said. “Surviving that emotional roller coaster is huge in high school football in a game like that. Coach Bethel does a great job, their kids are tough, and they’re going to win some games.”
Just like in recent weeks, Athens saw success on its first drive, using its speed to score in just five plays within the first minute and 30 seconds of the game. Joey Moore’s 12-yard scramble out of the pocket set him up for a go-ahead run into the end zone on the next play.
The Bulldogs continued their offensive push in the first quarter on their second drive, ending in a 1-yard find from Moore to Braden Halbert.
The Vikings didn’t score until four minutes left in the second quarter with a touchdown run from Wells. Vinton County took a 14-13 lead with just eight seconds left after a 2-yard touchdown run from Wells.
Vinton County entered the fourth quarter with a 21-19 lead. With the ball on the Vikings 13-yard line, Moore threw a bullet pass down the right sideline, but was intercepted by Zack Radabaugh.
The Vikings offense, powered by Wells, drove the length of the field on the ensuing possession to take a two possession lead with under nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Struggling to find an offensive flow, the Bulldogs needed to find some sort of spark to gain momentum. Athens got that wish when Moore found a wide open Nate Trainer for a 60-yard touchdown reception. The Bulldogs caught another break after Wells fumble led to Moore’s second touchdown run of the night on the next sequence.
Both teams turned the ball over on back to back plays late in the fourth quarter. Damron fumbled a snap on the Vikings 34-yard line, and Moore threw an interception a play later in the back of the end zone to Elijah Williams.
This turnover lead to the Vikings final drive of the game, and a rare appearance of Moore on defense. White chose to substitute a banged up Corbin Stalder
“I asked coach to go in on defense,” Moore said. “I was just trying to play for my brothers next to me. My coach has been preaching effort all year, and I was the next man up.”
The game-saving stop was one of the few highlights for the Bulldogs defense. Athens had problems defending the rush against Vinton, and this may be a result of a missing Isaiah Butcher. The senior was on the sideline, but did not see action against the Vikings. His return is unknown at the time.
While the Bulldogs add another win to their record, the team must improve on the defensive side of the ball and limit its amount of penalties as they take on rival Logan next week at R. Basil Rutter Field.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.