LAWRENCEVILLE – Although Roswell lost a bevy of talented seniors and the head coach off last year’s state championship runner-up, Central Gwinnett coach Todd Wofford knew the Hornets wouldn’t go down without a fight.
He just didn’t expect his team to have so many self-inflicted wounds.
Coming off a bye week, Roswell ventured into Gwinnett County and overcame a 14-0 deficit to defeat the host Black Knights 27-21 in overtime Friday.
“Pretty much everywhere you can beat yourself we beat ourselves,” Wofford said. “We missed a ton of tackles and missed a bunch of balls on offense and that’s a combination that will get you beat.”
Hornets running back Kamonty Jett, who led a Roswell running game that gained over 300 yards, scored the game-winning touchdown — breaking several tackles on an eight-yard rush to seal the win in the extra period.
Jett finished with 40 carries for 223 yards and three touchdowns.
While he commended the Hornets’ ability to run the ball, Central’s head coach was disappointed in his own team’s offense.
“We had guys open all night, we either dropped it or missed it,” Wofford said. “We can’t miss open guys. Hats off to Roswell, they’re a great team but we had guys open all night. That was a very poor offensive performance, almost an embarrassing offensive performance.”
Kentucky commit Jarren Williams finished 26 of 45 passing for 305 yards and two touchdowns, but had a costly interception on third down the overtime period.
After taking the early lead on a 34-yard strike from Williams to Thompson in the first quarter, the Black Knights’ offense went silent for most of the game.
Trailing 21-14 in the late in the fourth quarter, Central finally showed signs of life.
With 1:43 remaining in regulation, Williams hit receiver Jallah Zeze open in the middle of the field for a 28-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21-21 with 1:43 remaining.
Central’s defense forced a Roswell to a three-and-out and got its offense the ball at its own 38 with 44 seconds remaining. However, Central didn’t manage the clock well and failed to get out of bounds in time on a Williams 15-yard pass to Kaleb Pierce to force overtime.
In overtime, the Black Knights won the toss and elected to play offense first.
On third-and-6, Williams was flushed out of the pocket to the right and forced a pass to the end zone that was intercepted by cornerback Joshua Reid for the touchback.
The Hornets needed just a field goal to win but got even more when Jett broke free for a touchdown on the drive’s second play to seal the win.
It was the second overtime game in two tries for new Roswell coach Matt Kemper.
“That’s two in a row. The first one was a double overtime and we came out on the bad end, but I’m glad with the way the team responded tonight,” Kemper said. “I feel like they felt confident going into the overtime period because they had been there before.”
Turnovers made the difference in the game and early on it looked as if Central would be the beneficiary.
On third-and-12 from its own 8, Roswell quarterback Cordell Littlejohn was sent running for his life on a Central blitz up the middle.
The pressure caused Littlejohn to fumble and linebacker Joe Gracia scooped the loose ball near the goal line for a touchdown. The score put Central ahead 14-0 with 3:54 left in the first quarter.
Cornerback Tyan Milton nabbed two interceptions before the half but Roswell hung tough.
The Hornets pieced together an eight-play, 62-yard drive capped off by Jett’s 19-yard run up the gut on fourth-and-2. Jett’s TD run narrowed the score to 14-7 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.
The Hornets tied it at 14-14 with 8:08 in the third quarter after forcing a key turnover of its own. After Williams fumbled snap on his own 3, Roswell recovered and took advantage of the miscue.
On the first play of the drive, Jett took a carry up the middle and pounded over the goal line for the touchdown.
Roswell took the lead less than a minute later. Littlejohn called his own number and dashed 63 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that put the Hornets up 21-14 with 7:29 in the third quarter.
Littlejohn finished 5-for-12 with 69 yards and two interceptions. He added six carries for 75 yards and a score on the ground.
For Central, Williams continued his strong connection with top target Khmari Thompson. The receiver finished with eight catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Williams notched his third straight 300-yard passing game of the season.
ROSWELL 27, CENTRAL GWINNETT 21
Roswell 0 7 14 0 6 — 27
Central 14 0 0 7 — 21
Central: Jarren Williams 34 pass to Khmari Thompson (kick) 4:32
Central: Joe Gracia 1 yd fumble return, (kick) 3:54
Roswell: Kamonty Jett 19 run, (kick) 10:07
Roswell: Jett 3 run, (kick) 8:08
Roswell: Cordell Littlejohn 63 run, 7:29
Central: Williams 29 pass to Jallah Zeze, (kick good) 1:43
Roswell: Jett 8 run