Justin Sumpter skies for a ridiculous one handed score for Sandy Creek. (Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
It's been a long time and it took a real good team, but the Sandy Creek Patriots were bested at home in the playoffs. The Griffin Bears came to The Battlefied and went home with a 32-26 victory to knock the Patriots out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals.
Mistakes undid Sandy Creek in a sloppy game that saw the two teams combine for eight turnovers. The loss ended dreams of a fourth state championship in five seasons.
"We made way too many mistakes," said Sandy Creek coach Chip Walker. "The penalties and turnovers, it's a lot of stuff that we hadn't done all year. You can't do that when you play a good football team."
Sandy Creek will now be saying goodbye sooner than expected to a truly awesome group of seniors. The Class of 2014 finishes with a record of 53-2-1 with two state championships.
"I just hate for it to end like that for those guys. They had such a good run," said Walker. "It just wasn't meant to be I guess."
Even in defeat there were standout performers for the Patriots. Perhaps biggest of them was senior safety Gabriel Arnold who had a simply ridiculous third quarter where he hauled in three interceptions.
Justin Sumpter made big plays out wide, including an insane one handed touchdown catch to give the Patriots their last lead of the game.
"Justin had a huge game," Walker noted. "He played really good tonight."
The early stages of the game got the turnovers rolling. Sandy Creek coughed up the ball on their first drive, killing a promising chance to score. On the first play of Griffin's second drive, defensive lineman Broderick Allen picked off a pass that was batted at the line to set up his Patriots on the Bears 28 yard line.
Unfortunately, the great opportunity would be wasted. Two plays later, Griffin cornerback Jordan Colbert read a hitch route and stepped in front for a 78 yard pick six and a 7-0 lead.
Sandy Creek answered back on their next drive to knot up the score at 7-7. Cole Garvin hit Demarre Kitt for 24 yards on a second and long play to get the ball rolling. Eric Swinney capped off the drive with a 12 yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
Griffin would drive all the way to the SC six yard line on the following drive, but a beautiful pass deflection by Josh Greene kept them out of the end zone. A 24 yard field goal by Tristen Mathis gave the Bears a 10-7 advantage.
Sumpter was huge on the following drive, first hauling in a 13 yard catch. After a nearly lost fumble set up a third and 16, Sumpter picked up a 37 yard reception to move the chains. Swinney then scored again, this time on a run up the middle that saw him brutally run over a hapless safety for an 11 yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead.
Sandy Creek's pass rush was stellar on the next drive as both Javonte Lain and Al Cooper tallied sacks to force a punt. The Patriots would hand the ball right back though as they muffed their second punt of the game, this one picked up by Griffin on the SC 17. The Bears would convert a fourth and goal for a three yard touchdown run by Jaquez Parks for a 17-14 lead heading into halftime.
The second half started Arnold's onslaught as he ended Griffin's first three possessions with interceptions. Sandy Creek turned the first two into Lorenzo Broadwater field goals, the first from 32 yards and the second from 23 yards.
Arnold's third pick was probably his biggest as it came in the end zone to kill a big Bear drive. The Patriots drove right back down the field. Sumpter finished off the drive with his circus catch on fourth and long for a 26-17 lead with 7:31 to play.
Griffin's offense then heated up while the Patriots bogged down. A 65 yard scoring drive topped with a five yard Parks to Quandarius Weems touchdown pull the Bears within 26-24. After a Sandy Creek three and out, the Bears put together a 66 yard drive and grabbed the lead with a one yard score by Telly Sloan. A successful two point conversion staked the Bears to a 32-26 lead with 1:45 to play.
The Patriots last gasp drive didn't last long. After a deep heave on second down was nearly picked off, the Bears made it count with an interception on third down to ice the victory.
Sandy Creek's running back duo was productive as always. Eric Swinney ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries. Delvin Weems added 76 yards on nine carries.
Cole Garvin completed 11 of 22 passes for 136 yards with one score and two interceptions.
Justin Sumpter led the way with five catches for 76 yards and a score.
Sandy Creek will be back. There's no doubting that. Even with the loss of many key players, the team will reload. They will be angry and they will be hungry. They don't want another season to end in defeat.
"I hope it sticks with these guys," said Walker. "I hope they don't like this feeling. It's not a feeling I want to get used to."