ALPHARETTA — Alpharetta overcame a two-touchdown deficit in the final quarter by scoring 17 straight points to shock Pope 24-21.
“It is a tough way to lose,” Pope coach Tab Griffin said. “I told our guys all week it’s going to be a hard fought game and I knew it’d be a one possession game. We get up 21-7 and we just couldn’t figure out a way to put them away. I felt like we gave that one away. No discredit to them. They’re a good football team. We’ve just got to figure out a way to finish off games.”
The Greyhounds dropped to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in Region 7AAAAAA play.
Pope fell behind midway through the first quarter 7-0, but came back to score 13 straight points to lead at the half. Running back Joe Stellmach got the Greyhounds on the board with a 1-yard plunge midway through the second quarter, but they still trailed after missing the extra point. Senior Will Zegers gave Pope the lead after a 55-yard punt return with 5:30 left in the half.
Stellmach led all rushers with 130 yards while catching two passes for 24 yards and a score. The junior continues to be a workhorse for Griffin’s team.
“He’s so steady and is such a powerful runner,” Griffin said. “It’s not secret our game plan is going to be Joe Stellmach. He’s going to get his touches and we chart his touches. They had spies on him, but at the end of the day, Joe Stellmach is Joe Stellmach and he carries us a lot of the time.
After a scoreless third quarter, Pope scored on a 9-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Kemper Hodges to Stellmach with 10:42 to play to give the Greyhounds a 21-7 lead.
With 6:54 left to play, Alpharetta (1-2) scored on a 1-yard run by quarterback Will Gerdes. Down 21-14, the Alpharetta defense forced a three-and-out to allow Gerdes to strike again. With 4:54 left, the senior quarterback hit fellow senior C.J. Dobard on a 41-yard touchdown pass to draw even.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Greyhounds ran the ball on first down, then threw two incompletions and punted the ball back to Alpharetta. Unfortunately for Griffin’s squad, the punt was rushed and traveled just 16 yards. After taking over on the Pope 36-yard line, the Raiders moved the ball 15 yards with no timeouts, mostly on a scramble by Gerdes. After a delay of game penalty, senior Bryce Troutt came on and made a 44-yard field goal with just 13 seconds remaining.
“I told our guys we can’t let one game define us,” Griffin said. “It’s just one game in the region. It’s just one loss and we still have opportunities to win the region championship. We’re not even halfway through the season. We’ve got a long season ahead. I think our guys are mentally tough enough and resilient enough to not let just one game define our season.”