Posted on 02 November 2014.
The Decatur Eagles trailed the Gainesville Leopards for all but 78 seconds Friday night – the final seconds.
The Eagles marched 80 yards in 11 plays, scoring on Payton McAlister’s third touchdown run of the night with 1:18 left to complete the comeback and beat Gainesville 29-25 at Eagle Stadium.
LEADING THE WAY – Decatur quarterback Justin Myers hurdles a tackler and gets up field during the Eagles’ 29-25 win over Gainesville Friday. Myers rushed for 170 yards on 22 carries for the Eagles, who moved to 4-0 in District 4-4A Division I. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty
“We knew if we got the ball back we could score with any amount of time left,” said Decatur senior quarterback Justin Myers. “The guys made great catches and the offensive line did a great job.”
The Decatur victory sealed one of the top two spots in District 4-4A Division I for the Eagles (7-2, 4-0). More importantly, it set up a battle for the league title with the district’s other unbeaten team, Graham.
“It’s what we set out to do. You can’t ask for more,” said Decatur coach Mike Fuller.
For much of the game, the Eagles looked like they would be heading to Graham after suffering their first district setback. Gainesville’s powerful running game chewed up huge chunks of yards and the clock. The Leopards finished with 330 yards on the ground, including 238 in the first half.
“We put extra guys in the box all night,” Fuller said. “With their big offensive line, they do a good job. It’s hard with our style of offense to replicate their offense in practice.”
Gainesville led 20-14 at halftime. After a safety and Hector Sagrero’s third field goal of the night in the closing seconds of the third, Gainesville owned a 25-14 advantage.
The Eagles then began chipping away behind McAlister and Myers. The two carried the ball a combined six times on a nine-play drive that ended with a McAlister 5-yard dash to the end zone. A Myers pass to Ryan Durdon for the two-point try brought Decatur within three.
Still ahead, Gainesville converted a pair of third downs to get to Decatur’s 29-yard line for a third-and-1. The Leopards then were whistled for a pair of penalties and punted with 4:55 left.
After the punt rolled into the end zone, the Eagles had the ball at their 20. The Decatur drive was on the verge of stalling after one first down at the 33-yard line. On a third-and-9, Myers hit Tanner Shields in the middle of the field for 25 yards.
“That was the play of the year, the catch and throw to Tanner,” Fuller said. “We had run the play to the other side and they overplayed it. Tanner ran a great route and made a great catch.”
Myers, who ran for 170 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, picked up another first on a third down with a dash to the 1-yard line. A play later, McAlister plunged in to give the Eagles the lead.
McAlister ran for 95 yards, 83 after halftime, on 15 carries with the three touchdowns.
Durdon sealed the win with an interception of Gainesville quarterback Mason Copeland.
Copeland scored a touchdown on the opening possession of the game to give the Leopards a 7-0 lead. After Decatur tied the score on a Myers run, Copeland added his second touchdown run, covering 21 yards.
Copeland ran for 60 yards and the two touchdowns. Zukari Long led the Leopards with 102 yards on 17 carries.
Sagrero booted through a 32-yard field goal to put Gainesville up 17-7 after the Leopards forced a three-and-out. Sagrero added a 31-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half, capitalizing on a Myers fumble at midfield.
It was one of three times the Decatur defense made Gainesville settle for field goals.
“That was a huge difference in the game, making them kick the field goals,” Fuller said. “In the second half, the defense held them to a field goal and they got the safety.”
GETTING A GRIP – Decatur’s Mason Baur reaches for Gainesville quarterback Mason Copeland during the Eagles’ 29-25 victory over the Leopards Friday night. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty
DECATUR 29, GAINESVILLE 25
Gainesville … 7 … 13 … 5 … 0 … – … 25
Decatur … 7 … 7 … 0 … 15 … – … 29
Gainesville – 6:31, Mason Copeland 1 run, Hector Sagrero kick
Decatur – 3:08, Justin Myers 28 run, Jorge Martinez kick
Gainesville – 11:55, Copeland 21 run, Sagrero kick
Gainesville – 8:02, Sagrero 32 field goal
Decatur – 5:14, Payton McAlister 5 run, Martinez kick
Gainesville – 0:33, Sagrero 31 field goal
Gainesville – 6:07, Safety, punter tackled in end zone
Gainesville – 0:09, Sagrero 14 field goal
Decatur – 9:25, McAlister 5 run, Ryan Durdon pass from Myers
Decatur – 1:18, McAlister 1 run, Martinez kick
GAINESVILLE … DECATUR
First Downs … 16 … 21
Rushes-Yards … 49-330 … 42-282
Passing Yards … 29 … 91
Total Yards … 359 … 373
Comp-Att-Int … 2-7-1 … 8-13-0
Sacks-Yards lost … 3-4 … 2-3
Punts-Average … 2-38 … 1-30
Fumbles-Lost … 2-1 … 2-1
Penalties-Yards … 7-50 … 2-20
Rushing: Gainesville, Mason Copeland 12-60, Caleb Willis 15-81, Zukari Long 17-102, Devin Mims 4-9, Josh Manuel 5-78. Decatur, Payton McAlister 15-95, Justin Myers 22-179, Eddie Martinez 3-1, Gunnar Parker 2-16.
Passing: Gainesville, Copeland 2-7-1-29. Decatur, Myers 8-13-0-91.
Receiving: Gainesville, Mims 1-21, Tag Sparks 1-8. Decatur, Ryan Durdon 4-30, Eddie Martinez 1-7, Tanner Shields 1-25, Carsen Medlin 1-8.