TIFTON — Warner Robins answered a fourth quarter field goal with a touchdown and moved on to a 24-10 victory over Tift County Friday night.
Tift trailed 14-0 late in the second quarter, but Joe Almond and Walter Jackson keyed a 13-play, 79-yard drive that led to a one-yard buck over the line by Almond with 13 seconds left.
After holding Warner Robins to negative yardage in the third quarter, Tift moved into the Demons' red zone. Pedro Mendoza kicked a 35-yard field goal at 11:14 in the fourth quarter to cut the margin to 14-10. However, Warner Robins raced down the field and Jahlen Rutherford bolted for a touchdown a minute later to arrest any thoughts of a further comeback.
Points were at a premium to start the game.
Jalen Addie used his arm and legs to guide Warner Robins into Tift territory off the opening kickoff. From the 32, he threw into the end zone, but found Wendell McClain for an interception.
Tift could not move the ball and Azaria Smith kicked a 58-yard punt to pin the visitors deep. Warner Robins traded the ball back on a kick of their own, but soon were on their way to a score.
Almond took off on a quarterback run, but had the ball slapped out of his hand by Ahmad Walker. At Tift's 29, Addie ran for 16 yards. Two plays later, he found Jahmere Bryant on a short pass. Bryant did the rest and tightroped up the right sideline for a 13-yard touchdown at 2:46. Cary Payne provided the first of his three extra point kicks.
The Demons cashed in their second touchdown late in the first period.
Addie had completions of 25 and 46 yards to Marcayll Jones and Ty Carr, respectively to move to Tift's 12. On the next snap, Addie rumbled in. With 14 seconds left in the opening period, Warner Robins led 14-0.
Almond was the Blue Devils' sole quarterback of the night. He shook off a tough first quarter to find a rhythm in the second. Jerehmiah McKinnon was on the receiving end of his first completion early in the quarter.
Cade Anders helped Tift stuff Daveon Walker at the 25 for a turnover on downs and the Blue Devils finally had some momentum.
Jackson busted a 15-yard run to get to near midfield, then Almond slipped a quick pass to Qa Clines that covered 24 more yards to the 29. Almond bulldozed a defender on a run, then Jackson got to work moving the ball closer to the end zone.
Time was running down as Jackson ran to the 4, then the 2, then the 1. The Devils called time with 17 seconds left, then Almond pushed his way through a mass of bodies to score with 13 seconds to go. Mendoza kicked the extra point. Tift trailed 14-7 at intermission.
The third frame was stalemate between the squads. DaShawn Hurley knocked Addie for a five-yard loss on a big third down play at the 47. Tift couldn't get closer than Warner Robins' 36 and turned the ball over on downs there.
Jalon Miller had a sack and after getting the ball back, Almond barely missed another connection with Clines. On that drive, however, Jackson ripped a 19-yard run to the 17 during the waning seconds of the third quarter. Three plays into the fourth, Mendoza kicked his field goal.
The Demons shook off a sack by J.D. Bengston on the following drive and though Addie briefly exited on a hard hit, penalties and a Rutherford run carried Warner Robins into the end zone. They pushed the advantage to 21-10 at 10:04.
Smith kicked his second 58-yard punt when a drive stalled. Warner Robins then proved to be difficult to get off the field. James Smith extended several drives with shifty runs. He had 93 yards on four carries in the fourth quarter alone.
Payne added a 38-yard field goal at 4:44. Tift was unable to make any further runs afterwards.
Almond completed 10 of 25 passes for an unofficial 111 yards. McKinnon had four catches for 36 yards, Clines caught three for 43.
Jackson ran for 105 yards on 23 carries.
In his first game as punter, Smith had two 58-yard kicks and two more traveled more than 40 yards.
Warner Robins had a 13-of-24 passing night from Addie for 150 yards. Thanks to his fourth quarter, Smith ended up with 105 rushing yards. Rutherford ran for 44, Addie for 31.
Jones, projected to be one of the state's top receivers, was held to four catches for 42 yards.
Tift will play Valdosta on the road next Friday. Valdosta defeated Maynard Jackson in their opener, 55-7.