That wasn’t the case when the game ended.
The 10th-ranked Buccaneers saw their streak of 22 consecutive regular-season home wins come to an end with a 62-46 loss to the ninth-ranked Wolfpack.
The Buccaneers’ last regular-season loss at home came Sept. 11, 2009 against Grovetown, when the team’s current crop of seniors were in the eighth grade.
The 62 points was also the most given up by an Allatoona defense, and the loss guaranteed that the Buccaneers would not host a first-round playoff game since first becoming eligible for postseason play in 2010.
North Paulding (8-1, 8-1) racked up 638 yards of offense, including 304 in the first half, and quarterback Chase Noonan completed 16 of 26 passes for 442 yards and six touchdowns. Running back Corn Collins totaled 18 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns, while Kayden Bishop had five receptions for 124 yards and two scores.
“This is the first team in four years … with a home loss (in the regular season),” Allatoona coach Gary Varner said. “That was something pretty special. We’ve played two big games this year, and we haven’t performed.”
The turning point came with Allatoona (7-2, 7-2) leading 17-14 in the second quarter, after the Buccaneers’ Russell Halimon ripped off a 30-yard touchdown run.
North Paulding drove the ball from its own 20 to the Allatoona 4, but the Buccaneers stuffed Collins at the 1 on fourth-and-goal.
Two plays later, an Allatoona fumble — the first of three turnovers — gave the ball back to the Wolfpack, and Collins delivered the second time around with an 11-yard run into the end zone for a 21-17 lead.
Brandon Townsend intercepted Conner Larson three plays into Allatoona’s next possession, and Noonan capped a seven-play, 59-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to give North Paulding a 28-17 halftime margin.
Allatoona pulled within four early in the third quarter. Halimon returned the kickoff 56 yards to set up Larson with a 35-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Ezell.
It was all North Paulding from there. The Wolfpack scored 27 unanswered points and took a 55-24 lead early in the fourth quarter.
An Allatoona drive stalled inside the red zone when Javier Williams recovered a fumble at the Wolfpack 7. Noonan soon completed a 93-yard touchdown pass to Mac Seagle on third-and-10 to put North Paulding up 48-24 with 4:12 seconds left in the third period.
Seagle had three catches for 147 yards and a score.
“In this type of game, with our deficiencies on defense and (North Paulding’s) ability at defense, we can’t have turnovers and defensive letdowns and blown assignments,” Varner said. “You lose like this, you feel like the coaches let the team down, starting with me. How well-prepared were we, really, to lose a game like that on our home field? That’s the question. We have to get back and look at ourselves and find out what we can do.”
Allatoona cut into the Wolfpack’s 31-point lead on Josh Bettistea’s 3-yard run with 7:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
But North Paulding answered quickly as Noonan connected with Nick Pais on 69-yard touchdown, which gave the Wolfpack a 62-31 advantage with 6:56 left.
“I’m glad our kids came over here to play football (Friday),” said North Paulding’s Scott Jones, the former South Cobb and Kennesaw Mountain coach. “Offensively, we’ve been averaging about 44 points a game. That’s just want we do. Defensively, we needed to slow Allatoona down, and I guess we did that enough.”
The Buccaneers scored the final 16 points of the contest. Bettistea, who rushed 38 times for 196 yards, scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard run with 3:28 left.
Jay Smith sacked Noonan in the end zone for a safety, and Larson found Ezell open for a 53-yard score with 1:01 remaining in the contest.
Larson was 16-of-31 for 258 yards and two touchdowns, while Ezell caught nine passes for 193 yards and. Halimon had 15 carries for 172 yards and a score.
The Buccaneers totaled 629 offensive yards, but their three turnovers all led to touchdowns for North Paulding.