Joey Woods threw up a prayer. Jr. Napoleon answered it.
Napoleon caught a 44-yard pass off a deflection with 6:48
remaining Friday for the decisive touchdown in Golden Gate's 21-19
victory over Class 3A, District 14 rival Palmetto Ridge in the
second annual Battle for the Gate.
Woods threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score, but
his most spectacular play came midway through the fourth
Golden Gate (4-5, 1-3 district) was protecting a 14-11 lead when
the Titans gambled with a long pass. With Palmetto Ridge defenders
draped all over him, Woods threw the ball as far as he could just
before going down.
The pass bounced off Golden Gate receiver J.D. Woods before
ending up in the hands of Napoleon, who caught the ball inside the
5-yard line and raced into the end zone.
Palmetto Ridge (3-6, 0-4) didn't give up.
After fumbling at Golden Gate's 12-yard line on its next
possession, the Bears came back and reached the end zone on Trey
Carter's 8-yard touchdown pass to Zach Zaban. Carter found Zaban
again for a two-point conversion pass that cut the lead to two
points with 2:36 remaining.
But an offsides penalty against Palmetto Ridge on a fourth-and-1
play allowed Golden Gate to run out the clock and celebrate its
second straight victory in this rivalry.
Golden Gate withstood a two-touchdown performance by Carter and
a spectacular effort by Tremaine Dale, who had one touchdown catch
and two interceptions. Golden Gate's Nickson Giles rushed for 55
yards to go over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
The second edition of this rivalry between new schools had both
teams battling nerves early on. Neither team managed to pick up a
first down until the seventh series off the game.
Golden Gate's first three possessions ended with a blocked punt
and two fumbles, allowing Palmetto Ridge to begin each of its first
three series inside the Titans' 40-yard line. But the Bears only
came away with three points, as Zaban kicked a 27-yard field goal
after Justin Martin returned a fumble to the Golden Gate 18.
Missed opportunities would continue to haunt Palmetto Ridge
throughout the first half. Golden Gate took a 7-3 lead on Joey
Woods' 23-yard pass to Jonathan Stevenson with 40.9 seconds left in
the first quarter, then Palmetto Ridge started killing itself with
Palmetto Ridge appeared to force a punt when Chad Austile sacked
Joey Woods early in the second quarter, but a late hit by one of
Austile's teammates kept the drive alive. On the very next play,
Joey Woods attempted a quarterback sneak, found an opening and
streaked down the left sideline for a 23-yard touchdown that
extended the Titans' lead to 14-3.
The Bears squandered a couple of chances to close the gap late
in the first half.
A 13-play, 63-yard drive ended with no points when Golden Gate's
defense stopped Austile on two plays from inside the 2-yard
Palmetto Ridge regained the momentum on a remarkable
interception by Dale, whose ensuing 23-yard return gave the Bears a
first down at the Golden Gate 17.
On the next play, Carter found Dale for an apparent touchdown
pass into the right corner of the end zone.
But a holding penalty wiped out the score, then an
unsportsmanlike conduct call pushed the Bears all the way back to
the Golden Gate 46. Two long completions to Zaban put Palmetto
Ridge in field-goal range, but a heavy rush prevented Zaban from
making his 27-yard attempt.
Palmetto Ridge finally cashed in on an opportunity midway
through the third quarter. After taking a high snap deep in his own
territory, Golden Gate punter Jeff David tried to run for a first
down instead of heading to the end zone for an intentional safety.
Palmetto Ridge tackled David at the 7-yard line to set up Carter's
5-yard touchdown pass to Dale.