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Wilcox playoff hopes on the line vs Atkinson this Friday

Staff Reports 

ROCHELLE- The Wilcox County Patriots fell to rivals Turner County (6-3) in their final home game of the 2018 regular season this past Friday night. The loss left the Patriots at 4-5 so far on the season, and they are tied with Jenkins County for the 24th and final GHSA class A playoff spot entering Friday night’s contest at Atkinson County. A Wilcox win over the Atkinson County Rebels would most likely mean a first playoff appearance for Wilcox since the 2012 season. Those chances are dependent upon other Friday night results for teams that are close to Wilcox in the rankings as well.

In this past Friday night’s contest, the Turner Rebels held off a late comeback attempt from the Patriots to escape Rochelle with a 20-18 win.

After a scoreless first quarter that featured both defenses trading stops, the Patriots got on the scoreboard first with a touchdown early in the second quarter.

Wilcox drove down to the Turner 15-yard line at the start of the second period on a drive that featured rushing contributions from Jacquarius Dixon, Noah Hollingsworth, Justin Moore and Desmond Tisdol. Turner forced a turnover on downs to stop the drive but the Patriots quickly took the ball back on a fumble recovery by Dixon.

Hollingsworth then threw an 11- yard touchdown pass to Branson Owens three plays later for the first points of the night. The score put Wilcox ahead 6-0 with 7:14 to play in the first half.

Neither offense was able to get much going for the remainder of the first half so the Patriots went into the halftime break and Senior Night activities with a 6-0 lead.

The Rebels started the second half with possession of the football and took their first lead of the game using an eight-play drive. Turner quarterback Demarcus Barnes ran in a touchdown from nine yards out and then threw a pass to Keonvay Clark for the two-point conversion. The scores put the Rebels in front 8-6 at the 8:09 mark of the third quarter.

Wilcox hit back with an immediate answer on the subsequent drive to retake the lead.

After a return out to the Patriot 35- yard line by EJ Howard, a Turner facemask penalty moved the ball out to midfield. Hollingsworth threw a pass to Howard for a 24-yard pickup on the next play, and Tisdol then got the ball down to the Rebel 14-yard line with a 12-yard run. The Patriots gave the ball to Tisdol for three more consecutive runs, and he scored a touchdown on the final carry from two yards out. The two-point try was no good, but the Tisdol score had the Patriots back in the lead at 12-8 with seven minutes to go in the third quarter.

The teams swapped punts for the remaining time in the third quarter, and the Rebels then retook the lead early in the fourth quarter on another short touchdown run by Barnes. The score put the Rebels in front 14-12 with a just over nine minutes to play in the contest.

The Rebels then added six more points to their lead shortly after a Wilcox fumble on the subsequent drive. The score came on a 69-yard pass from Barnes to Clark, but the two-point attempt was unsuccessful, leaving the score at a one-possession game in favor of Turner at 20-12 with seven and a half minutes to go in the contest.

Hollingsworth and Tisdol alternated carries on the ensuing Patriot drive, and Tisdol picked up his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard score to cut into the Rebel lead. Turner came up with a stop on the two-point attempt and held a 20-18 lead with just under three minutes to go.

Turner County attempted to run out the remaining time on the subsequent drive, but tackles for loss by Hollingsworth, Tisdol and Ahmad Johnson added with stops by Cameron Patterson and Thrower forced a turnover on downs and gave Wilcox the ball near midfield with just over a minute left to play in the contest.

Hollingsworth threw to Howard on a fourth down play for a big first down conversion on the ensuing drive, and the quarterback then picked up 11 yards on a run to get inside the Turner 25-yard line with about 30 second to go, but the Rebels came up with a stop on fourth down to hold on for the 20-18 win.

Hollingsworth finished the game with 112 yards rushing on 19 carries to go with 70 yards through the air and the touchdown throw to Owens. Tisdol ran for 83 yards and the two scores on 19 total carries, while Howard was the leading receiver for the Patriots with five catches for 59 yards.

Tisdol led the Wilcox defense with eight total tackles on the night, while Thrower finished with seven total, including three for a loss of yards and a sack. Johnson and Owens both finished the contest with four total tackles. Matt McAdoo, Hollingsworth and Justin Moore all accounted for three total tackles. Keaun Brown and Kierre Herrington each tacked on stops for a loss in the contest, and Dixon had two tackles to go with his fumble recovery.

The Patriots’ season comes down to this Friday night’s contest against Atkinson County (3-6) in Pearson. Atkinson will enter the contest still with an outside shot to make the playoffs with a victory, as they are ranked 27 going into the game and would need a lot of other Friday night results to go their way, so it will be a win or go home situation for the two teams.

The Atkinson Rebels will carry a four-game losing streak with them into the game. Following a 3-2 start, Atkinson has accumulated region losses to Clinch County by a score of 48-28, Telfair County 52-31, Turner 24-7 and Irwin County this past Friday night 63-6.

Last year’s Wilcox versus Atkinson matchup came down to the last few plays and saw the Rebels steal a 29-28 win in Rochelle after Wilcox led 28-14 at halftime. Wilcox County leads the series between the two schools with a 20-11 overall record, though Atkinson has won the last four matchups dating back to the 2014 season. The game will be Friday night at 7:30 in Pearson.