MARIETTA — There was no shortage of momentum-shifting plays in Kell’s 38-31 victory over Sprayberry on Friday at Cobb EMC/Corky Kell Stadium.
The Longhorns and Yellow Jackets combined for 10 plays of 25 yards or more, but their defenses also combined to create 21 negative plays and five turnovers.
However, Jaylon Brown’s 19-yard touchdown on a pass from Corbin LaFrance with 45 seconds left to play, and a forced fumble through the end zone for a safety on the ensuing Sprayberry drive sealed the deal for Kell.
“It was a great football game. We just made one more play than then did,” Kell coach Brett Sloan said. “That is really all it was. I am really proud of our guys and the effort that they played with. We go by the 24-hour rule. We enjoy it and move on win or lose.”
The win gave Kell (5-3, 5-1 Region 6AAAAAA) sole possession of second place in the region behind Allatoona, and in position to host a first-round playoff game if it can beat neighboring Lassiter next week.
“This is the biggest game of the year because it is the next one,” Sloan said. “We try to treat them all the same. We don’t change our routine. One is not bigger than the other. Lassiter is a huge rivalry, too. If you lose them, you learn how big they are.”
Kell jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 59-yard touchdown pass from LaFrance to Xavier Parris. The Longhorns then surprised Sprayberry (4-4, 4-2) with an onside kick, but they could not convert it to points.
The Yellow Jackets scored the next 10 points on a 24-yard field goal from Caleb Prickett and an 82-yard punt returned for a touchdown by Kobe Summerall, for a 10-7 lead with 3:40 to play in the first quarter.
Kell forced a Sprayberry fumble and converted it into a 14-10 lead on a 25-yard pass from LaFrance to Brown, but the Yellow Jackets turned the momentum yet again with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Brown to Fatir Muhammad on the last play of the first half to take a 17-14 lead into the break.
“I told our guys, we just need to maintain our composure because bad things are going to happen,” Sloan said. “You have to play the next play because the most important play is always the next play, no matter what happens the play before.”
The Longhorns took the lead back on their first drive of the second half, on a 70-yard pass from LaFrance to Jamal Hill.
LaFrance was 18-for-25 with 363 yards and four touchdowns, and Hill led all receivers with 168 yards on six catches. LaFrance stepped up after running back David Mbadinga reinjured his ankle and did not return to the game.
Following an interception by Tyler Barrett, Kell stretched its lead to 30-17 on a 6-yard touchdown run by Zakar Yisrael and a 32-yard field goal from Colby Kerns.
The Yellow Jackets stormed back to take a 31-30 lead on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Brown to Mustafa Hefner with 1:21 left in the third quarter, and a 13-yard pass from Brown to Hefner with 4:27 left to play in the game.
LaFrance then led a seven-play, 50-yard drive that included him drawing the Sprayberry defense offside for a fourth-down conversion and ended with Hill in the end zone for the game-winner.
“You have to keep believing and maintain your composure,” Sloan said.
“Your kids are going to react the way you react. At the end of the day, we try to stay level-headed because (Sprayberry is) a good team. I told our guys before we started that they are a good football team and it was going to be a four-quarter game, and it was.”
Damarion Owens led Sprayberry with 152 yards on 14 carries.