BUENA VISTA, Ga. -- A football game is four quarters and 48 minutes long and for that, the Marion County Eagles are very thankful.
After sputtering offensively for most of the first three quarters, Marion County put together two scoring drives in the final 4:56 -- including one that ended with a 23-
yard field goal by A.J. Wells with 45.4 seconds to go -- to rally for a 24-21 victory over Region 4-A rival Dooly County.
The win sends Marion County (11-1) into the Class A-public school state semifinals for the first time in school history. For the second straight week, the Eagles will face a Region 4 rival as they host Hawkinsville (9-3).
Hawkinsville -- which beat Marion County 14-10 in Hawkinsville in the teams' regular-season meeting -- advanced to the semifinals by knocking off Clinch County, 23-8, Friday night in Homerville.
Dooly County held a 21-14 lead with 6:11 to go following a 4-yard touchdown run by Chanin Hamilton and the Bobcats -- which lost to Marion County 27-25 in the regular-season meeting between the two teams -- looked to be on their way to avenging their loss.
However, a long kickoff return by Lorenzo Smothers put the Eagles at the 50-yard line and following a 15-yard penalty on Dooly County, the Eagles had the ball at Dooly's 25. Johnny Royal took a handoff from quarterback Dustin Eckert and broke loose for a 25-yard touchdown run and Wells' extra point tied the game at 21 with 4:56 remaining.
Marion County then forced Dooly County into a three-and-out and after the punt, started its next drive on its 38-yard line with 3:54 left in regulation.
The Eagles pounded the ball with seven straight running plays as Royal and Smothers took turns battering the Bobcats defense. The drive stalled on Dooly County's 6, but that was well within Wells' range and he curled his kick inside the left upright to put the Eagles ahead, 24-21, with just over 45 seconds remaining.
Dooly County didn't go quietly, though, working its way down to Marion County's 38 with 3.7 seconds to go, but the Bobcats' desperation heave into the end zone on the final play was knocked away and the Eagles held on to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time in school history.
Friday at Eagle Stadium
Dooly County 7 0 7 7--21
Marion County 0 14 0 10--24
Dooly - Kris Lundy 69 pass from Kereon Merrell (Isai Cornejo kick), 6:25.
Marion - Dustin Eckert 1 run (A.J. Wells kick), 8:45.
Marion - Jacob Dixon 22 pass from Eckert (Wells kick), 0:24.
Dooly - Chanin Hamilton 6 run (Cornejo kick), 0:10.
Dooly - Hamilton 4 run (Cornejo kick), 6:11.
Marion - Johnny Royal 25 run (Wells kick), 4:56.
Marion - Wells 23 FG, 0:45.
Records: Dooly County 8-4, Marion County 11-1. Next: Marion County (11-1) vs. Hawkinsville (9-3) (State Playoffs Smifinals) Dec. 6.