The seventh-ranked Bucs (10-1) trailed 14-0 midway through the first quarter, but stormed back and outscored the Patriots 24-7 in the remaining three quarters to seal the victory.
“We really shot ourselves in the foot in the first quarter,” Allatoona head coach Gary Varner said. “We will not be able to spot someone 14 like that again in the playoffs.”
Varner said going deep into the 2011 playoffs helped this year’s squad play from behind early.
“The kids know that we are here, so they did not get too crazy,” Varner said. “They believe in themselves and it was great that they fought back. But we will not be able to do that again.”
After swapping touchdowns and the lead in the second half, Allatoona held a 24-21 lead with 1:43 remaining in the game. Heritage
(8-3) converted one fourth-down attempt on its final drive of the game, but Harrison Kulp’s 42-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left and the Bucs entered the victory formation.
Patriots quarterback Ryan Sutton faked a handoff to the fullback and found tailback Obe Fortune wide open in the middle of the field for a 47-yard touchdown to open the scoring in the first.
Three plays later, Steven Everson intercepted Allatoona’s Jeremy Uzee at midfield and raced 50 yards to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead.
“We were able to move the ball well against them and we were able to set up the play-action pass,” Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. “They got a little antsy in their secondary. Then, on their next possession, their quarterback gave us the easy read. Steven made a good play and went for six.”
Heritage gained a mere 13 yards through the rest of the first half and the Bucs took a 17-14 lead into halftime.
Allatoona running back T.J. Herron scored on a 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Nathan Shaw boomed a 29-yard field goal through the uprights on Allatoona’s next possession. Uzee lofted a beautifully thrown fade into the corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown strike with 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
“Uzee has had a great year,” Varner said. “He gets overlooked, but he had over 1,000 yards this season, which is good for our offense. He threw a beautiful pass into the end zone. That was huge to take the momentum back at the end of the first half.”
Heritage took the lead back on its first possession of the second half when Sutton busted through the Allatoona defensive line on a 2-yard touchdown run.
The Bucs quickly regained the lead on their next possession mostly on the arm and legs of Uzee. The senior quarterback was 3-for-3 through the air for 41 yards on the drive and added 8 yards on the ground, including the game-winning 1-yard touchdown run.