SNELLVILLE — Shiloh’s football team found a new weapon on offense, and it worked to give the Generals their first two touchdowns of the season with a pair of first-half strikes.
Quarterback Sterling Knowles threw two touchdown passes to Antonio Meeks, and he appeared to have thrown a third one with under a minute to go in the fourth quarter. Shiloh was trailing 20-13, and would’ve had an extra point to tie or a chance to go for two and steal the win.
But a flag was down.
The Generals (1-2) were hit with a holding penalty, and South Gwinnett (4-1) used the reprieve to get one final stop and pick up a 20-13 win over its crosstown rival.
It was the 33rd time the foes from Snellville have tangled, and this might have been one of the craziest games in the rivalry’s history.
“It was a hard-fought rivalry game,” South head coach Steve Davenport said. “We knew what to expect. They were going to come over here excited about beating us, and we had to do the same thing to match that intensity.”
The biggest flashpoint moment came midway through the second quarter, with South leading 8-0 off the strength of a Rion White to Armond Anderson touchdown pass and a safety. Knowles hit Meeks for a 75-yard score, Shiloh’s first offensive touchdown in over nine quarters of football this season.
What happened next left both coaches befuddled.
In the ensuing celebration, some sort of debris ended up on the end zone turf. After a long conference with the referees and both head coaches, both teams were given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“That was real cash money,” Davenport said with a laugh. “It looked like the guys came from Shiloh’s student section. They ran on the field and threw the money in the air. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The Shiloh side told a similar story, but weren’t as convinced on its source.
“I guess they jumped the fence,” Shiloh head coach Tino Ierulli said. “They were tossing money on the field. They don’t know whose fans it was from, that’s why they couldn’t really assess the penalties on anybody.”
Regardless of what really happened, Shiloh’s offense had found money both on the turf and in the scheme. The Knowles to Meeks connection proved to be the ignition for a stumbling offense. Knowles hit Meeks again for another touchdown just before halftime, and gave the Generals a 13-8 lead out of nowhere going into halftime.
“He’s just a playmaker,” Ierulli said on Meeks. “He did everything in his power to give us a spark, which he did. We played a lot better in this game than in the first two games.”
While the offense looked better, special teams let Ierulli’s team down big time. South’s first-half safety came on a blocked punt out of the end zone, and once again it was a play in the punting game that turned the tide of the contest.
With Shiloh punting deep in its own territory for the second time, Davenport’s defense put on another heavy rush. It didn’t quite get home, but it was enough to force a shanked punt that travelled all of eight yards. Four plays later, Khoreem Miller scored on a 5-yard run to put the Comets up for good.
“We worked on it all week,” Davenport said on the punt block. “We saw some things in terms of preparation. We told the kids even if we don’t block it, we’ll get pressure. It really paid dividends for us.”
Now with a 14-13 lead in tow, South just played defense and tried to force a stalemate for the rest of the contest. It was still 14-13 with under three minutes to go, and South had the ball looking to put the game away.
Miller took a handoff, shifted around a tackle and bolted 70 yards down the right sideline, bringing his total for the day to 107 yards and putting his team up 20-13. The Comets went for a two-point conversion and a knockout punch, but the unsuccessful play left the door open for a comeback.
“We had the guy stopped for a two-yard loss,” Ierulli lamented. “We would have had them stopped again, and we could have had it close to midfield. That just killed us.”
South’s defense had one more score with Meeks appearing to score the game-tying touchdown, but the penalty flag preserved the second-half shutout.
“We really challenged the kids to come out in the second half and take care of business,” Davenport said. “We challenged the guys to keep fighting, and we’re just proud of the kids. To be able to pull that out was big.”
SHILOH 13, SOUTH GWINNETT 20
Shiloh 0 13 0 0 — 13
South Gwinnett 8 0 6 6 — 20
South: Armond Anderson 12 pass from Rion White (2-pt try failed) 7:44
South: Shiloh punt blocked out of end zone for safety 1:51
Shiloh: Antonio Meeks 75 pass from Sterling Knowles (2-pt try failed) 7:50
Shiloh: Meeks 32 pass from Knowles (Erick Quiquiivix kick) 1:16
South: Khoreem Miller 5 rush (2-pt try failed) 4:07
South: Miller 70 rush (2-pt try failed) 2:50