STATESBORO, Ga. — Despite a pair of touchdowns each by Wontavious Washington and Chandler Worthy and a career night by quarterback Tyler Hamm, a thrilling comeback attempt by Griffin High fell short as the Bears season came to an end, 34-28, Friday against Statesboro at historic Womack Field in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
No. 8 state-ranked Griffin (10-2), however, didn't mount a comeback until Statesboro sophomore Dequan Daniels — the game’s leading rusher with 206 yards and 3 TDs on 21 carries — staked the Blue Devils (10-2) to a 34-7 lead on a 56-yard touchdown run with 4:06 to play in the third quarter.
Griffin’s offense, which had gained only 28 yards in the first half (10 yards on 12 carries and 18 on three passes), roared to life when senior quarterback Tyler Hamm found a hot hand, completing 15-of-23 for 223 yards in the second half after completing just 3-of-7 for 18 yards in the first half.
He meticulously picked apart the Statesboro secondary as he completed passes of 6 yards to Xzavier Dickson — the game’s leading receiver with 132 yards on 10 receptions — 27 yards to Jahmad Clemons, and then 19, 14 and 7 yards to Dickson to move the Bears to the Statesboro 3 where he tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Chandler Worthy.
Worthy’s second touchdown of the night made the score 34-14 with 1:21 to play in the third quarter. But the Bears were just getting warmed up.
Griffin's defense, which limited Statesboro to one first down and 80 yards rushing in the second half after the Blue Devil had 221 yards rushing and 11 first down in the first half, quickly got the ball back for the offense.
Hamm immediately went to work again completing passes of 8 yards to Dickson, 23 to Ty Turner, 9 to Dickson and 24 to Darrius Davis to move the Bears to the Statesboro 11 where Wontavious Washington — the team’s leading rusher this season who was injured in the beginning of the game and missed most of the first half — returned to rip off a 10-yard run to bring the ball to the 1 where he scored from on another run two plays later to cut SHS’s lead to 34-21 after the extra point by Eddie Glanton.
Griffin’s defense held fast yet again, forcing the Blue Devils to go three and out.
Hamm (18-of-28 for 241 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs on the night) fired passes of 18 yards to Clemons, 15 to Dickson, 3 to Turner and 24 to Dickson before rushing for 7 yards himself to bring the ball down to the goal line where Washington ripped off another 1-yard TD run with 4:26 to play to make it 34-28 after Glanton nailed his fourth consecutive extra point of the night.
Griffin’s defense did the trick again, forcing Statesboro to its third consecutive three and out where a 19-yard punt left the Bears in business at their own 49 with 2:40 left to play.
Hamm had the Bears driving again on a pass of 22 yards to Dickson and a quarterback run of 6 to bring the ball to the Statesboro 23. However, a fumble on a sack of Hamm on third-and-4 at the Statesboro 23 ended most of GHS’s hope.
The Bears got the ball back at their 14 with 43 seconds left. A wideout option pass by Dickson, however, was picked off at the Statesboro 39 with :27 to play.
The teams traded TDs in the first quarter, Daniels running for a 3-yard score and Worthy matching it on a 1-yard run. The second quarter, however, belonged to the Blue Devils as Trai Gadson scored on a 1-yard run and Daniels added a pair of 1-yard scoring runs to put his team ahead 27-7 at the half.
By night’s end, Griffin had 318 yards (77 rushing and 241 passing) and 16 first downs from scrimmage and Statesboro had 322 yards (301 rushing and 21 passing) and 12 first downs.
It was only the second time the teams have ever met, the first ending 7-0 in Statesboro’s favor during the 2005 state semifinals in the Georgia Dome.
Five turnovers, 2 lost fumbles and 3 interceptions, proved costly for Griffin. Though Statesboro turned them into only 13 points. Of course, Griffin turned a Statesboro fumble into 7 points.
Statesboro now advances to a quarterfinal-round game against No. 4-state ranked Kell (12-0), which topped No. 10-ranked Flowery Branch (10-2) 21-13 on Friday.