After McEachern took a five-point lead with 8:35 remaining in the game, when quarterback Ty Clemons faked a handoff and rushed for an 85-yard touchdown, that edge was quickly wiped away.
North Cobb scored 14 unanswered points during the next four plays to seize control of the game, and it went on to hand the Indians their first loss of the season with a 28-26 victory at Emory Sewell Stadium.
North Cobb (6-1, 5-0) is now atop of the region standings, dropping McEachern (7-1, 5-1) into a three-way tie for second with Hillgrove and Harrison.
“We’ve only had two region championships in 54 years,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “This doesn’t clinch it, but I doubt we would be in a position to if it hadn’t been for this win. Now, we have the opportunity.”
The game-changing play came on the ensuing kickoff following Clemons’ 85-yard score. Torrance McGee took the kickoff, darted to the right side of the field and through a band of McEachern players before heading left to elude the remaining tacklers and finding his way into the end zone for an 85-yard return.
“You always try to get the ball into his hands,” quarterback Tyler Queen said of McGee, who also had five catches for 90 yards. “That run probably changed the game.”
Things continued going North Cobb’s way following McGee’s touchdown.
When Clemons threw a deep ball for tight end Scott Trey on first-and-10 from the McEachern 31-yard line, it was picked off by Cam Albright. On the very next play, J’Vonte Herrod barreled his way through a couple of McEachern defenders and produced a 55-yard pickup to put the Warriors on the McEachern 5. North Cobb scored again on the next play when Tyler Queen threw a 5-yard screen to Devin Granville.
The two quick touchdowns gave North Cobb a 28-19 lead with 7:13 left to play.
“Every time (McEachern) made a play, we had to match it,” Shane Queen said. “Our kids are unbelievable. They played their fannies off out there and I couldn’t be more proud.”
North Cobb’s 11-point lead was far from secure with more than half a quarter to play. The Indians needed five plays to get within two of North Cobb when Clemons broke through for a 59-yard touchdown run.
But the Warriors managed to chew more than 3 minutes of clock on their next drive, forcing McEachern to use all its timeouts after getting flagged for pass interference with roughly 2:30 remaining.
McEachern nearly executed the 2-minute drill with no timeouts, getting the ball back with 1:59 left.
The Indians moved from their own 18 to the North Cobb 44 during the first minute, but the drive stalled afterwards. On third-and-8 from the 42, Clemons’ pass attempt was blocked, and a screen pass to T.J. Rahming on fourth down was incomplete.
“This is the first time we been in this situation,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman. “North Cobb played their hearts out. We’ll learn from this come back the next game and play hard.”