Quarterback Jeremy Uzee connected on touchdown passes to Tommy Davis and Clarence Soleberry in the final 12 minutes to lead the Bucs to a 20-19 win over M.L. King in the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs at Hallford Stadium.
“Our kids just never quit (Friday),” said Allatoona head coach Gary Varner. “They played hard and our coaches upstairs saw a few things in the passing game that they thought we could exploit late. I just did what they told me to do, it worked and we’re moving on.”
The win advances Allatoona to the state quarterfinals for a second straight season. The Bucs will travel to Fayetteville to take on Whitewater next Friday.
“Last year’s team and last year’s senior class got a lot of pub for what they did and I think it left this group of seniors really determined to make their mark. They were set on getting back to the elite eight no matter what and they did it tonight,” said Varner.
Allatoona’s frantic second half rally was led by a host of seniors making highlight reel plays in the final two quarters.
Trailing 19-6 late in the third quarter, the Bucs faced a fourth-and-9 on their own 46 when Uzee, who finished the game 15-of-22 for 176 yards and two touchdowns, connected with D.J. Ezell who tip-toed the sidelines for a critical 11-yard gain and a first down. A 21-yard gain on a reverse to Tommy Davis moved he ball inside the 20 before Uzee and the Bucs’ offense faced another fourth-and-long from the Lions’ 14.
With their season on the line and needing a touchdown, Uzee placed the ball in front of Davis on a corner route and the senior made a diving touchdown grab that cut the lead to 19-13 on the final play of the third quarter.
“We knew we had to have it on that drive,” said Uzee after the game. “If we could get the momentum there we felt confident in our defense to make some stops in the fourth quarter.”
Allatoona’s defense responded with back-to-back stops, the latter forced M.L. King to punt with 3:45 to play.
Uzee converted a third-and-12 with a 25-yard pass to Soleberry that pushed the ball to midfield. Then, a pair of T.J. Herron runs gave the Bucs a first-and-10 from the M.L. King 38.
Varner then used his last timeout to set up a deep shot to Soleberry.
Soleberry shook his defender and Uzee laid the ball in a perfect spot for what would be the game-winning touchdown with 1:37 to play.
“We run that play all the time and it’s always crisp so I knew it was coming to me,” said Soleberry of the game-winning score. “Jeremy always puts it on the money so I came out of the break and I knew I had the touchdown. I was just thinking don’t drop this ball.”
Varner praised the play of his senior quarterback on the final two scoring drives.
“It was a huge game for him but we expect it at this point too. I think the kid is 23-2 as a starter and he doesn’t get a lot of credit but he deserves it and he had a phenomenal game tonight.”
M. L. King posted one last scoring threat in the final minute, moving the ball inside the Allatoona 30, but Terrence Sykes sealed the game for the Bucs with an interception on the goal line.
Soleberry finished the game with 76 yards receiving on three catches. T.J. Herron led all rushers with 116 yards on 24 carries — doing most his damage in the first half.
Nathan Shaw gave the Bucs an early 6-0 advantage with field goals from 22 and 35 yards in the first half before M.L. King got hot in the passing game and scored three straight touchdowns through the air to take a 19-6 lead.