REIDSVILLE -- The Long County Blue Tide football team knew they had made history before Friday’s regular season finale against Tattnall County by making the playoffs. They made even more when the defeated the Warriors 28-22 to clinch the three seed of Region 1-AAA in the state playoffs.
The game started off as it looked like the Tide were going to pull away from the Warriors early. The Warriors took the field on offense first in good field position after recovering a surprise onside kick near midfield.
Despite the field position, the Tide defense stepped up with a few big stops and a penalty to force a three and out. The punt rolled to a stop at the Tide 12.
Joe Saddler got a few big runs early in the drive as the Tide soon found themselves near midfield. A 20-yard run by sophomore Ahmari Douglas, who pushed his season total near 1,200 yards on the night, set the Tide up with a first down at the 18.
The Tide faced a third and short from the 10 when fellow sophomore Steven Wyatt got the call as he made one spin move and walked into the endzone to give his team the 8-0 lead after a 16-play, 88-yard drive that took seven minutes off the board.
The Warriors took the remaining two minutes off the clock in the first quarter but had nothing to show for it as they were forced to punt away after another three and out.
The Tide took the ball from their own eight-yard line at the start of the first quarter and Douglas took the handoff on the second play of the drive and nearly broke a 90-yard touchdown.
He settled for a 42-yard gain to the Tattnall 48 before the Tide slowed things down and chipped away at the remaining yards to finish off the 92-yard drive.
Douglas scored from seven yards out to make the score 16-0 with just over seven minutes left in the half.
The Warriors took over near midfield after another short kickoff and took advantage of the field position. They finally recorded their first first down of the night with a run into Tide territory to the 37.
They picked up another 22 yards on a run to the Tide nine and finally got into the endzone from two yards out to make the score 16-8 with 2:47 left in the half.
The Tide took over from their own 35 and Douglas went to work, picking up 11 yards to the 46. A fumble lost the Tide four yards, but Dwayne Rowe made up the yardage and more with a 38-run to the Tattnall 20.
Four plays later, Tony Phillips found the endzone for the first time on the season with a four-yard run to give his team the 22-8 lead with 11 seconds left.
The Warriors were able to get some momentum as their best athlete, Jeremiah Mayner, returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards for the score.
However, a penalty called the return back as the Warriors got one untimed down. Mayner ran around with the ball, looking for someone open, but Jayson Mack and Kaden Gallups combined for the sack to close out the half.
The Tide looked to go up three scores as they got the ball to start the second half, but a few fumbled snaps caused the Tide to go for it on fourth down at the Tattnall 44.
The Tide turned ball over on downs as the Warriors looked to use their half-ending momentum to get back in the game. They eventually took the clock all the way down and into the fourth quarter as they moved down to the Tide 20.
The fourth quarter began like the third did, with the score standing at 22-8. The Warriors faced a third and six from the Tide 20 before Mack recorded a sack after a fumbled shotgun snap.
The Warriors went for a 44-yard field goal, but it was no good as the Tide took over from there. The Warriors got the ball back on the very next play as they took over at the 26.
The Warriors gained nine and a half yards to the 16 and faced a third and short. Tay Brown made an athletic play and recovered a fumble and nearly returned it 80 yards for the touchdown before being dragged down at the Tattnall 20.
Two plays later, Douglas got into the endzone for the second time with a 20-yard run to make the score 28-8 with 9:11 left to play.
The Warriors did not go down so easily as they just worked away at the yardage from the Tide 47. They eventually faced a second and goal from the one before punching it in to make the score 28-14 with 5:27 left.
The Tide recovered the onside attempt at the 50 and eventually turned the ball over on downs after gaining just seven yards. The Warriors took over at their own 44 and went to work again.
They got down to the Tide 9 and took a timeout with 42 seconds left. Two plays later, Mayner hit his receiver in the endzone to get the touchdown, making the score 28-22 with nine seconds left.
The Warriors needed to get the onside kick but could not as the Tide took a final knee to win the game.
With the win, the Blue Tide finish the regular season 5-5 and 2-2 in the region. This is only the second time they have finished with a non-losing record, dating back to their 5-5 finish in 2012.
The Tide also clinched the number three seed in the state playoffs. They will travel to Brooklet to take on the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets out of Region 3 in the first round of the playoffs next Friday, Nov. 12.