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GAC pushes second-ranked Thomson to the brink

GAC's Peter Whiteneck

GAC's Peter Whiteneck

NORCROSS -- Greater Atlanta Christian once again took a non-region heavyweight right down the wire, but came up short in the end as the Spartans fell to Thomson 36-27 Friday night.

GAC (4-2), ranked No. 8 in Class AA, battled Class AAA's No. 2 Thomson (6-0) squad all night only to fall short when the ball simply didn't bounce the Spartans' way.

Trailing 30-27 after Rafe Chapple hit Peter Whiteneck on a 42-yard scoring pass with 3:01 to go in the game, GAC nearly had Thomson stopped with a chance to get the ball back and set up a potential game-tying field goal or game-winning touchdown. But an interception on GAC's next drive and then a crazy bounce of the football on Thomson's final drive spelled the end for the Spartans.

Thomson had the ball back with 1:06 remaining in the contest and eventually faced a third-and-10 at its own 20. That's when quarterback Chris Tutt took off for what appeared to be a first down at the 31. But Tutt fumbled and the scramble ensued. Thomson's Chris Jordan located the football and eventually covered the remaining 69 yards for the back-breaking TD with 30 seconds left and the final 11-point margin of victory for the Bulldogs.

"We fought so hard out there tonight and I'm proud of the effort," said GAC head coach Tim Hardy. "But it's still disappointing when you line up and lose. Thomson is an excellent football team and they deserve to win. But we had plenty of chances to win. We have to look at ourselves squarely in the mirror and recognize that.

"We could also schedule an easier schedule and gotten some wins. But no one really cares about that. We just have to get ready for our region schedule and that starts next Friday with Westminster."

The first quarter started out like a track meet as the two teams combined for 20 points in the first eight minutes. GAC broke through first when Whiteneck hauled in a 40-yard pass from Chapple. But the point-after try failed and GAC held a quick 6-0 lead with 8:02 to go in the opening quarter.

Thomson answered right back with a 29-yard pass from Tutt to Ryan Kelly with 5:49 remaining. The Bulldogs converted their extra point to take a 7-6 advantage.

But GAC struck again as Micah Abernathy got loose on a 62-yard run and the Spartans regained the lead at 13-7 with 4:47 left in the first quarter. Jordan opened the second quarter with a 2-yard score and also ran in the two-point try to give Thomson a 15-13 lead. But GAC took the lead at 20-15 with only 2:05 left in the first half as Chapple hit Darius Slayton on a 44-yard scoring pass.

Thomson took the second-half kickoff and marched 67 yards in 13 plays, capped off by Torrie Battle's 5-yard run. Jordan plowed in on the two-point try and the Bulldogs were back in front 23-20 with 6:25 left in the third quarter.

It looked like Thomson could rest easy when Jordan scored from 15 yards out following a Felton Hatcher interception.

That TD made it 30-20 Thomson midway through the fourth quarter, setting up the unusual finish.

Chapple had a big night for GAC and hit on 17 of 30 for 330 yards with three TDs and two interceptions while Whiteneck finished with six catches for 154 yards and two TDs.

Slayton added five catches for 77 yards. Thomson did a solid job on Kyle Scales, who managed just 46 yards on 18 carries. Scales also caught four passes for 61 yards.