Holly Springs’ comeback fell short when Broderick Taylor's fourth-down reception in the final minute was ruled to have hit the ground. The Heritage defense held on for the 13-7 win, spoiling Holly Springs head coach Wayne Bragg's debut.
The catch would've have given Holly Springs a first down just outside the Heritage 10 yard line.
“Our program needed a win like this. A close win, where we had to keep fighting,” Heritage head coach Jason McGeorge said.
Holly Springs trailed 13-0 at the half after being stymied by the Heritage defense, which held the Golden Hawks to only one first down and forced a turnover.
Holly Springs made some adjustments, one moving its quarterback Justin Armwood to the shotgun position in the second half. Armwood appeared more comfortable as it gave the sophomore some time to operate and also opened some gaps for running back Nehemiah Harris, who scored a touchdown in the third quarter to close the gap to 13-7.
After the score, the Golden Hawks’ defense held Heritage to a three-and-out. The Huskies were forced to punt, and Holly Springs used the momentum to move the ball down the field. However the drive stalled at the Heritage 20-yard line. Facing fourth-and-one, Armwood was stopped cold on an option run for a three yard loss.
Heritage responded by moving the ball down to the Holly Springs side with pass plays of 34 yards and 22 yards by Blake Walters. Heritage was able to move the ball to the Holly Springs four yard line to set up a first-and-goal. Then Heritage’s drive stalled and after an illegal procedure penalty and three straight incompletions from the nine-yard. The Huskies’ attempt at a 25-yard field goal sailed wide right.
Holly Springs had new life with 4:17 remaining from its own 20. Armwood and Harris helped move the ball for the Golden Hawks in eight plays to the Heritage 15 yard line with just over a minute remaining. However, Heritage’s defense was able to force two incompletions and stop Armwood for a three-yard loss. On fourth-and-13, Armwood’s pass looked to slip under the diving defender and into the arms of the sliding Taylor, who caught the ball, but the pass was ruled to have hit the ground first. Heritage was able to take over and take a knee to run to preserve the win.
“It was a great comeback. Down 13-0 at halftime. Just still kind of working on some things,” Holly Springs head coach Wayne Bragg said.
“Defense did a great job of shutting them down in the second half to kind of give us an opportunity, we just threw it short there at the end,” Bragg said added.
McGeorge cited defensive fatigue and Holly Springs making some adjustments as key contributors to an awakened Holly Spring offense in the second half that struggled to move the ball in the first half.
“The key sometimes is when you’re tired is to stick with your technique and continue to play,” McGeorge said.
Heritage got on the board first with a 40-yard touchdown reception by John McCaffity. Quarterback Blake Walters hit McCaffity on a 20-yard slant. McCaffity broke a tackle and raced into the end zone for the score. Raul Ponce-Martinez’s kick made it 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
Heritage took a 13-0 late in the second quarter thanks to Mathew Baker’s 2-yard TD run. The score capped a 16-play, 92 yard drive that ate up six and a half minutes on the clock. The PAT was missed but the Huskies took a 13-0 lead into the half.