ROSWELL, Ga. — Of all the plays in football, perhaps none is less heralded but more important than the PAT.
Even at the high school level, many players, fans and even coaches have come to expect that the crucial point following every touchdown is a sure thing.
But Friday night’s region matchup between Fellowship Christian and Walker proved that there is no such thing as sure thing in football and showed the importance and gravity of the extra point.
With the game tied at 21-21 in the final minute of play, Fellowship freshman Lawson Haigler scored from 10-yards out to put the Paladins on top by six.
But Walker brought the house on the PAT, gaining penetration and tipping Jack Berands extra point try wide left. Berands entered the game 13-14 on extra points.
With 51 seconds left, Walker took over on offense with three timeouts in their pocket.
Using quick passes to the sideline, Walker moved the ball down the field to Fellowship’s 26-yard line. Walker’s first strike at the end zone was incomplete, and with just six seconds remaining, the Wolverines lined up for the must-score play.
With the game on the line, Walker’s Lake Boyer found a seam in Fellowship’s secondary and made an acrobatic, diving catch in the middle of the end zone to tie the game as time expired.
But Walker still needed an extra point to seal the dramatic win.
Fellowship brought everyone to block, but the PAT sailed through the posts as the Wolverines rushed the field in celebration.
“I think both teams played a well,” Fellowship head coach Al Morell said. “I think in the end, we had good coverage, their kid just made a heck of a play.”
The heartbreaking loss brought an end to a hard-fought game for both teams with Fellowship Christian dealing with multiple injuries to its starters.
The Paladins started five freshmen in the game to account for injuries that have sidelines Fellowship’s quarterback, two running backs, right tackle and free safety.
Those injuries are exacerbated by the fact that Fellowship has a 50-player roster and most play both ways.
Walker’s Boyer bookended the scoring for Wolverines. He returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to put Walker 7-0 in the opening seconds.
“Anytime you have freshman starting, mistakes are going to be made,” Morell said. “Overall, our offense and defense played well but we have to cut out the mistakes.”
The Wolverines extended their lead later in the first with a 33-yard rushing score.
Fellowship then put up 21 unanswered points in a flurry of second quarter scoring.
Quarterback Brooks Bryant connected with Casey Barham for a 29-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 21-7. Barham then found the end zone again after blocking a punt and returning it 15-yards for a touchdown. Fellowship earned the lead with James Milhollin scoring on a 37-yard rush late in the first half.
Walker tied the game late in the third quarter and the score remained 21-21 until the final minute of the game.
With the loss, defending region champs Fellowship fell to 1-2 in region play and fell to 1-3 all-time against Walker.
The Paladins will take on Whitefield Academy (3-2, 2-1) next Friday and with no injured starters expected to return, Morell said his team will have to “grow up in a hurry.”
Fellowship has won the last two meetings by a combined score of 77-3.