The Buccaneers came in averaging more than 45 points per game, while the Spartans were three points better.
Things were no different Friday night.
Eighth-ranked Allatoona had a 14-point lead at halftime but it couldn’t hold off the Spartans, en route to a 48-45 overtime loss in the battle of Region 5AAAAA unbeatens.
It was a milestone win in Ed Koester’s short time at South Paulding. The coach at South Cobb this time last season, Koester was coaching just his second game on the Spartans’ sideline after undergoing surgery Aug. 22 to remove a tumor on his spinal cord.
“They are the best measuring stick in north Georgia for a (AAAAA) football team,” Koester said of Allatoona. “We were just fortunate (Friday).”
South Paulding quarterback Chandler Burks, a Kennesaw State commitment, was 22-of-30 through the air for 388 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 106 yards and two scores for the Spartans, who improved to 4-0 overall and in the region.
Jae Bowen rushed for 179 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
“Great high school football game,” Allatoona coach Gary Varner said. “They played tremendous. Their quarterback played a phenomenal football game. They beat us up and down the field in the second half. Good coaches make adjustments in the second half and they made theirs and we didn’t do our job.”
After recording shutouts in three of its first four games, and allowing only 14 points total, Allatoona (4-1, 4-1) had no answer for the Spartans’ Burks-fueled offense.
Josh Bettistea led Allatoona with 126 yards and two TDs on 15 carries, but he did not play in the second half due to injury. Russell Halimon finished with 109 rushing yards, including a touchdown, and a 78-yard punt return for a score.
After Connor Larson completed a 69-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Ezell with 3:24 left in regulation, giving Allatoona a 42-35 lead, South Paulding pulled even again nearly 3 minutes later when Burks capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard pass to Darrel Wilson.
“I just told them they got to play tough like we taught them to play,” Koester said of what he told his players at halftime. “If we go do that, things will come out our way.”
On the ensuing possession, Larson was sacked on the second play, and the Bucs decided to let the rest of regulation time lapse and go for the win in overtime.
In its possession of overtime, Allatoona was left to settle for a 22-yard field goal for a 45-42 edge. After an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty moved the start of South Paulding’s possession back to the 30, Bowen continued to run through the Bucs’ defense, and on the sixth play of the drive, he sprinted to the corner of the end zone for a 2-yard TD and the decisive score.
The Spartans’ L.J. Pope led all receivers with eight catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns.