By Phillip Williams
GILMER–The rabbit’s foot may be an iconic symbol of good luck, but the Atlanta Rabbits’ fleet feet were insufficient to invalidate the injury inflicted on them by Gilmer Buckeyes quarterback Mason Hurt, who flung three touchdowns as Gilmer axed Atlanta, 47-26, in the pair of state-ranked squads’ season inauguration Friday night.
The Buckeyes, many of whose fans were bused to the game from certain spots in town due to ongoing construction of the new high school behind Jeff Traylor Stadium, prevailed on a bizarre night. It saw part of the stadium lights darken for several minutes, the toilets conk out by halftime, lightning flash in the distance, and the public address announcer offer refunds to those who purchased game programs because some of the photos in it turned out to be from last school year.
Not to mention that both teams’ placekickers had the same last name–Hernandez.
The aforementioned utility difficulties did not daunt the home team, which led the entire contest after taking a 7-0 lead on the game’s opening offensive. The Buckeyes bounded 59 yards in six plays, tallying when Jaydon Griffin scurried nine yards around right end with 10:24 left in the first quarter before Jose Hernandez airlifted the first of five PATs.
Atlanta soon counter-attacked on its second possession, screaming 82 yards in only four plays–the first of which was Dra Nelson’s 65-yard flight. (It came immediately after play was halted for about six minutes due to the partial power outage, and resumed with the bank of lights on the stadium’s home side still dark).
Caleb Hamilton took the TD on a five-yard keeper, but Daniel Hernandez’s PAT kick misfired, leaving Gilmer up 7-6 with 6:03 left in the first quarter.
However, Hurt sent his first scoring salvo, an 11-yarder, to Eddie Ray with 3:39 left in the period and the PAT kick succeeded. Hurt then horrified the Hares with a long-distance scoring sling of 58 yards to Dylan Fluellen with 10:27 left to twirling time.
Gilmer sought a two-point conversion on the “swinging gate,” but it fizzled.
Atlanta soon surged as quarterback Kade Wood airmailed a 10-yard TD to Keith Kinney, and Daniel Hernandez banged the first of his two successful PATs with 4:11 left to halftime, making it 20-13.
But Gilmer totted up identical TDs on Brandon Tennison’s pair of fourth-down, two-yard keepers with only 38 seconds left in the half, and with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter. Atlanta blunders led to both tallies.
The first score came after Jose Hernandez missed a field goal try, only to have a Rabbit penalty on the play give the Buckeyes another chance. The second occurred after the visitors disgorged a fumble to Gilmer on a reverse at the Atlanta 8.
With two PATs after Tennison’s TDs, it was 34-13. Then things got wilder than a high-speed chase through a crowded school zone.
Atlanta’s Alijuah Drayton displayed jackrabbit speed as he returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards to Beulah Land with 3:22 left in the period. Daniel Hernandez’s kick was blocked, and, on the first play after Atlanta kicked off, Gilmer’s D.J. Shedd screamed 54 yards for a TD with 3:06 left in the period, only to have Jose Hernandez’s PAT try fail.
Thus, the teams combined for three TDs in four plays (excluding PAT attempts), procuring 19 combined points within 31 seconds of playing time.
Hurt’s final fling for points was a 7-yarder to Fluellen with 7:43 left in the wargame. Hamilton whizzed 57 yards for the Rabbits’ last scoring hurrah with 6:50 remaining.