LAWRENCEVILLE — The rally came up just short.
The Collins Hill Eagles battled back from a 10-point deficit late in the fourth quarter behind sophomore quarterback Sam Horn in search of their first playoff win since 2015.
They cut the deficit to just three points and had the ball at the Archer 48 with 40 seconds to play.
The previous play saw Collins Hill receiver Logan Brown get taken down in bounds, but the clock was stopped because of an Archer injury. When play resumed, the clock started on the ready for play instead of the snap.
The Eagles’ offense didn’t seem to realize it, and 16 critical seconds burned off the clock as they were driving for a game-tying or game-winning score. The clock ran out on them, and Archer survived with a 31-28 win in the first round of the AAAAAAA state playoffs.
“I would like to have that one back,” Collins Hill head coach Lenny Gregory said. “I was trying to save that timeout for as long as possible, but I probably should have called it after that first down. That was a mistake on my part.”
But on a night where yards were tough to come by for the first three quarters, Archer’s offense found a spark from an unlikely source.
Quarterback Carter Peevy’s rushing attack.
Peevy had just four rushing touchdowns the entire regular season, but he scored three times with his legs on Friday to go with 75 rushing yards and 192 yards through the air.
“They (Collins Hill) were loading the box,” Archer head coach Andy Dyer said. “The way you handle that is by adding a halfback, and you add a halfback by running your quarterback.”
Collins Hill running back Jalen Johnson matched Peevy with three touchdowns of his own, but it wasn’t enough as the Eagles' (6-5) season came to an end.
The first half resulted in a stalemate with a 7-7 score, an entirely different game than what the second half became.
Archer (8-3) ran 25 first quarter plays compared to just seven for Collins Hill, and the first snap of the second quarter was the breakthrough they were looking for.
Peevy ran on a designed third-and-goal run, and pushed the pile into the end zone with a great second effort to get the Tigers on the board.
After a slow start on offense, Johnson answered Peevy with his first score. He broke off a big 23-yard run late in the first half, and then finished what he started by scoring from a yard out.
Peevy and Johnson traded scores again in the third quarter, but the kickoff after Collins Hill’s tying touchdown resulted in a huge momentum swing.
The Eagles spent most of the night keeping the ball away from the dangerous Schmari Campbell on kickoffs, but they decided to test him this time.
Campbell made them pay with a 70-yard kick return that set up Jacob Waters for the go-ahead field goal from 38 yards out.
“I probably got a little greedy there,” Gregory said. “We kicked it short all night, and I decided to try one (long kick) there. It cost us three points.”
It was 17-14 Archer at the end of the third quarter, and there was no reason to think the fourth quarter would resemble anything other than the slugfest the game had been for the first three quarters.
Then out of nowhere, a shootout started.
“We were 100 percent believing in our kids,” Dyer said on the chaotic fourth quarter. “We had trouble stopping two or three drives, and a lot of that was self-inflicted. I don’t think we played our best football defensively, but we answered on offense. We really picked up the slack there.”
Another clutch run from Peevy got the fourth quarter track meet going, as he lunged for the sticks and picked up just enough to convert a key third and 9. Renoldo Spivey Jr. carried the ball in the end zone on the next play to make it 24-14 Archer.
The most explosive play of the night for either team followed, as Johnson broke through the tough Archer defensive front and scored on a 69-yard run. Peevy’s third score of the night extended the lead back to 10, but Horn would not go down easy.
A clutch fourth-and-5 completion to Logan Brown kept Collins Hill alive, and two plays later Horn hit Sean Norris in the corner of the end zone to make it 31-28 Archer.
“They have battled all year,” Gregory said. “I told them tonight’s game was decided by one or two plays, and one or two decisions on my part. I felt like we played good enough to win.”
But Archer’s defense showed their own toughness on the final possession, knocking down one last Hail Mary from Horn to seal the win.
“It’s all about enjoying this tonight,” Dyer said. “Then we have to put this away in 24 hours and get ready for next week.”
Archer will be at home again next week, taking on Cherokee with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.
COLLINS HILL 28, ARCHER 31
Collins Hill 0 7 7 14 — 28
Archer 0 7 10 14 — 31
Archer: Carter Peevy 4 run (Jacob Waters kick) 11:53
Collins Hill: Jalen Johnson 1 run (Isaac Bonacci kick) 2:25
Archer: Peevy 1 run (Waters kick) 7:51
Collins Hill: Jalen Johnson 4 run (Bonacci kick) 4:05
Archer: Waters 38 FG 2:24
Archer: Renoldo Spivey Jr. 9 run (Waters kick) 10:11
Collins Hill: Johnson 69 run (Bonacci kick) 9:13
Archer: Peevy 8 run (Waters kick) 7:08
Collins Hill: Sean Norris 22 pass from Horn (Bonacci kick) 5:18