LAWRENCEVILLE — Discovery quarterback Rashad Ray says he knew from the start his team could make the postseason.
In the most important night in the history of the young program, he delivered on that sentiment.
Ray accounted for five total touchdowns, including three in the space of 1 minute, 25 seconds in the fourth quarter, to help Discovery (4-6, 3-3 Region 7-AAAAAAA) defeat Meadowcreek (3-6, 3-3) 43-32 to punch a ticket to the state football playoffs for the first time in program history.
“From the beginning of the season we knew we had a chance of making the playoffs,” Ray said. “We did that tonight.”
That was a very bold claim to make back in August. Discovery was 6-34 all-time entering this season after four seasons of taking lumps from some of the best teams in Georgia, but it came into Friday knowing that a win by at least seven points would clinch a playoff spot and complete a monumental turnaround.
And thanks to a 22-point fourth quarter that flipped a game that looked like a lost cause on its head, head coach Efrem Hill will lead his team into the postseason next week.
“It means a lot,” Hill said outside his team’s ecstatic locker room. “It’s not just for me, it’s for everybody. It just means a lot for our community, and for everybody.”
That passionate Discovery community saw the Titans fall behind 26-14 in the second quarter after the Mustangs went up and down the field at will in the first half. Micah James ended up scoring four total TDs for Meadowcreek — three through the air from quarterback Malachi Watkins and one on a kickoff return. James finished the night with five catches for 78 yards, just narrowly behind teammate Rock Gaither’s 81 rushing yards for the Meadowcreek lead in scrimmage yards.
It was a 54-yard rush from Gaither that put the Titans down 12 points on the scoreboard and 19 points in the playoff chase going into halftime.
“I challenged them at halftime,” Hill said. “I told them ‘If you want it to be over you’ll sit down, if you don’t you’ll come out here and fight.’ They came out and busted their tails.”
Discovery’s defense allowed 26 points in under 17 minutes to start the contest, but only surrendered six the rest of the way. The offense drew a little closer on a one-yard score from senior running back J.B. Seay midway through the third quarter.
Seay finished the game with 106 yards on 26 carries, and became the first Discovery player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season on top of his vital score.
But the fourth quarter clock waned, and the Titans still needed to find the end zone twice. It ticked under six minutes with the score still 26-21 Mustangs.
Then came 85 seconds that will never be forgotten at Discovery.
It started when Ray found Tavion Jackson for a 28-yard touchdown with 5:33 left to give the Titans a 28-26 lead. They were winning the game, but were still going home.
Next came some magic.
Two Meadowcreek players both went up to receive the ensuing kickoff and collided, allowing the Titans to fall on the ball at the Meadowcreek 23. Ray took the ball on a quarterback keeper on the next play to send the home sideline into a frenzy and give his team the necessary lead.
Less than a minute later, defensive lineman Jovane Broomfield stepped in front of a screen pass from Watkins and returned it down to the 10. Ray called his own number on the exact same play, and scored from 10 yards out this time. After hitting a two-point conversion on top of it, Discovery led 43-26 just 1:25 after it trailed 26-21.
“I would just like to thank my offensive line and the wide receivers for blocking for me,” Ray said on his two scores in as many plays. “As soon as I saw the holes I just hit them.”
Meadowcreek came back with one more score to make the final moments stressful, but the Titans recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock to set off an uninhibited celebration from Hill’s team.
Discovery will hit the road next week to take on Denmark for the first postseason game in school history, while Meadowcreek fell to the No. 4 seed in the region and will travel to West Forsyth.
“We’re going to play and see what happens,” Hill said with a big grin on his face.
And after what happened Friday, his team can’t be counted out of any game going forward.
DISCOVERY 43, MEADOWCREEK 32
Meadowcreek 14 12 0 6 — 32
Discovery 14 0 7 22 — 43
Meadowcreek: Micah James 23 pass from Malachi Watkins (Sergio Gomez kick) 11:03
Discovery: Darryl Walton 20 pass from Rashad Ray (Eduardo Trejo kick) 2:32
Meadowcreek: James 69 kick return (Gomez kick) 2:17
Discovery: Ray 49 rush (Trejo kick) 1:54
Meadowcreek: James 38 pass from Watkins (kick failed) 10:00
Meadowcreek: Rock Gaither 54 rush (pass failed) 7:03
Discovery: Richard Seay 1 rush (Trejo kick) 6:53
Discovery: Tavion Jackson 28 pass from Ray (Gomez kick) 5:33
Discovery: Ray 23 rush (Gomez kick) 5:18
Discovery: Ray 10 rush (Ray pass to Walton) 4:08
Meadowcreek: James 7 pass from Watkins (pass failed) :45