NEWNAN- Josh Daher’s head coaching debut was a difficult road test against one of his new team’s arch-rivals. He watched as his exhausted defense was pushed to the brink on a balmy middle-Georgia night, and it was a matter of inches that made the difference in the 13-12 win for Daher’s Flint River Wildcats.
The game started on a sour note for the home team. The Heritage Hawks’ starting quarterback, Brian Macke, was injured on the Hawks’ second offensive series. Nonetheless, backup quarterback Peyton Henson was able to lead a scoring drive that culminated in a 10-yard scoring pass early in the second quarter. The extra point failed, giving Heritage a 6-0 lead.
The Hawks’ lead was short-lived however, as Flint River put together a scoring drive of its own only moments later. Sophomore tailback James Murphy had a 55-yard run to put the Wildcats in scoring position, and senior back Nathan Strickland capped the drive with a powerful 8-yard run. The ensuing extra point gave the visiting Cats a 7-6 lead.
Later in the quarter, the Hawks were driving and looking to reclaim their lead, but senior cornerback Jon McGinn had other plans, picking off a Henson pass only five yards from the goal line. The defenses fought hard, and the score stood still until late in the third quarter. The Wildcats however, broke the stalemate after forcing a Heritage punt. Murphy had yet another huge run, this time going 46 yards, setting up first and goal from the two. Murphy then punched it in from two yards out, giving the Wildcats a 13-6 lead (missed extra point).
Flint River took this lead late into the final quarter. Hoping to make a final, game-winning drive, the Hawks began a steady march from its own 36-yard line with under six minutes remaining. Gaining chunks of yardage and melting the clock, Heritage got into the endzone with only 22 seconds remaining. The Hawks then decided to go for two points and the outright win. Heritage back Parker Jones broke one tackle in the backfield and headed for the goal line, but was stood up and dog piled just outside the endzone to preserve the Wildcat lead. The ensuing onside kick was recovered by McGinn, sealing the Flint River victory.
The Wildcats certainly laid the groundwork in their opening win, compiling 261 rushing yards. This included 169 for Murphy and 69 for Strickland. This marks back-to-back wins for the Cats in the FRA-Heritage series. Flint River will host Trinity Christian Academy of Sharpsburg in its home opener Friday in Woodbury. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.