TIFTON - Jamie Felix broke free for a 37-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and, in the process, broke Tift County's hearts Friday night.
Tift, needing a win over Camden County to advance to the state Class AAAAAAA state tournament, had pulled to within three points of the Wildcats in the fourth quarter, but after Felix's run, fell 30-20.
Camden had gotten the ball at Tift's 44 with 4:15 to play in the game. They picked up one first down before going backwards five yards for a false start. Felix squirted through a hole on the right side of his line to the 37-yard score at 1:50.
Anthony Hunter intercepted a last-ditch Blue Devils effort to get back in the game. Camden knelt on the ball three times to end the game.
It was a tale of two halves Friday.
The Wildcats zoomed out to a 20-0 lead over the first 24 minutes and any luck that Tift had during that frame was all bad. The first possession of the third quarter did not go their way, either, but then the tide suddenly turned.
Azaria Smith's punt hit a Camden player in the chest at the 45 and was recovered by the Blue Devils at their own 47.
Joe Almond made a crucial screen pass to Ben Brock to keep the first down chains moving at the 42. Zach Carter ran for 14 yards, Jeffery Butler added 14 more and Tift was in business at the 7.
The next two plays went for a loss of a yard, but freshman quarterback Tyler Parker stepped in to throw to the end zone. The ball hit a secondary man's fingertips and Bricin Savage was on the spot to reel in the pass. The extra point kick hit the upright, however at 4:45 in the third, Tift had new life.
Camden began literally running into problems. Tyre West pulled down Logan Watson for a six-yard sack. On the next play, West helped sandwich Watson on another sack. The football dropped out of Watson's grasp and West fell on it at the Wildcats' 26.
The slow-but-steady Blue Devils offense needed nearly five minutes to cash in on this opportunity. Defensive lineman Jalon Miller came in to offer his three yards to pick up a first down. Carter and Almond pushed forward as the quarter ended.
One play into the fourth period, Butler crashed in from the 3. Pedro Mendoza made the extra point, turning the score into a 20-13 game with nearly a full quarter to go.
West picked up his third sack in three snaps, but a pair of facemask penalties fueled Camden forward. They ran out of yards at the Tift 26, but Burke Nettles came in for a huge 43-yard field goal at 7:32.
Tift was delivered a blow, but was not out of contention.
Right after getting the ball at his own 20, Almond spotted a wide open Jeremiah McKennon 10 yards beyond the defense. He hit McKennon in stride and the senior receiver did the rest, speeding his way to the south end zone for an 80-yard touchdown. The score was now 23-20.
Each team had the ball, but couldn't do anything with it. Tift could not pick up yards after being pinned at its own 12. They rolled the dice on a punt, hopeful of a last try. Felix ended those hopes with a touchdown.
Camden scored once in the first quarter, three times in the second.
Watson hit Michael Wanca for a 30-yard touchdown at 1:56 in the first. Adonis Coyle hit the first of his three extra point kicks. Two-and-a-half minutes after the first touchdown, they had their second. Chamar Roberts caught a 36-yarder from Watson.
Tift kept the Wildcats out of the end zone for the rest of the half, but not far enough away for Coyle. A partially blocked punt set up a drive that saw him boot a 27-yard field goal at 7:30. A fumble recovery was the ignition for the drive that ended with a 37-yard Coyle field goal.
Almond connected on 7 of 14 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. McKennon, who was on the receiving end of that throw, caught two passes for 81 yards. Parker was 1-for-2 with 8 yards. Savage caught his touchdown, one of three catches on the night.
Almond unofficially had 40 rushing yards. Carter added 26 and Butler had 20.