CHULA -- After using their vaunted Wing T attack to demolish opposing defenses all season long, the Tiftarea Academy Panthers had the tables turned on them during the GISA AA State Championship football game here Friday night.
The Brentwood School War Eagles of Sandersville brought a little Wing T of their own and then surprised the Panthers with a solid passing game late to capture the state title 14-9 at the Panther Pit.
"We had our opportunities," said Tiftarea Academy head football coach Roger Womack.
The Panthers end the season at 13-2. In winning the AA state title, the War Eagles finish with an 11-4 record.
Trailing 9-6 with just under four minutes to play, the Eagles, who had relied primarily on the run throughout much of the game, changed their strategy and went to the air.
The result was a touchdown pass from quarterback Jamie Dickey to freshman fullback Daniel Harris with just under a minute to play. The game-winning drive included a third down controversial pass interference call in the endzone that gave the Eagles a first and goal situation.
But Womack refused to blame the referees saying, "you can't blame the officials. Both teams played hard."
In fact both teams played much of the game like each one had been practicing against the Wing T all season long.
Panthers defensive coordinator Mayo Tucker had admitted earlier that Brentwood did a good job of "hiding the ball."
But after the Eagles' first quarter scoring drive, the Panthers did what they have proven to be good at all season long, adjusting.
The War Eagles didn't get close for the remainder of the first half and prior to the game-winning drive only gained 11 yards in the second half.
Time after time the Panther defense stepped up, stifling the War Eagle run. Finally with less than three minutes to go in the third, the Tiftarea defense forced Brentwood into a mistake.
Facing a fourth down situation on their own 29, the Brentwood center sent the ball sailing over the punter's head into the end zone for a safety.
Then with about ten minutes remaining in the game, the Panther defense bowed up once again forcing a Brentwood punt. The Panthers were able to take advantage marching downfield to take the lead on a 5-yard dive by Luke Jordan.
But with the season and the state title on the line, the Eagles unleashed another weapon. Coming into the game with nearly 1,000 yard in the air, Dickey passed the Brentwood School quickly down the field and into the endzone.
"We knew they could spread it out," said Womack.
Tucker echoed Womack when he said "We knew they could throw it."
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