Friday’s second game of the Georgia Senior Bowl Classic gave several Muscogee County seniors one last shot at taking the field. At the evening’s end, it was undeniable they had made the most of the opportunity.
Muscogee County stormed back from a 23-7 deficit to force overtime in its exhibition against Atlanta Public Schools. Muscogee’s second-overtime possession ended in a fumble, which allowed Atlanta Public Schools to score on the next drive and claim a thrilling 37-31 victory.
Despite the game at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta ending in a loss, Muscogee County head coach Pierre Coffey was nothing but pleased with his players.
“I told the guys I was extremely proud of the effort,” Coffey said. “We were outmanned on paper, but we gave tremendous effort. That’s what it’s about when you want to play football at a high level.”
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Atlanta seemed to be in cruise control going into the fourth quarter up two scores. That all changed once the opportunistic Muscogee squad made the most of its chances.
Birthday boy Jacobi Cunningham got it started with 11:21 to go in the fourth quarter, scoring on a 3-yard jet sweep that cut the deficit to 23-15. After a Davonte Webster interception gave Muscogee great field position, quarterback Dy’Javius Nathan fired the ball to Mike Ramsey, who had a beautiful toe tap in the back of the end zone for a 13-yard score.
“I was supposed to run a fade route, but I saw he was running out to the left side. I just broke my route, and he saw me in the back of the end zone,” Ramsey said. “I went up and got that guy.”
Muscogee had a perfect chance to end it in regulation after Clyde Albright’s interception on the next Atlanta possession, but a fumble three plays later meant an extra session was needed.
Atlanta’s Craig Philpot found the end zone to start overtime, and the team’s two-point conversion meant Muscogee needed eight points to stay alive. That was no big task for Marco Lee, who promptly broke the first run of the drive for a 10-yard score.
Lee pushed the pile forward into the end zone on the two-point conversion, forcing another overtime.
Muscogee had benefited on Atlanta mishaps to get back in the game, but its own mistake was the one that proved fatal. Muscogee lost the ball on a fumble on the first possession of double overtime, giving Atlanta a chance to seal the deal. Running back Darryl McClellan did just that, scoring on the next play to give his side the victory.
Though the surge in the final minutes wasn’t enough to grab a victory, it was a welcomed change of pace for Muscogee. The team had struggled mightily to move the ball consistently for the first three quarters, relying on some big heaves downfield to the likes of Cunningham and Ramsey to generate any sort of offense.
That finally changed in the fourth, and for Coffey, it was better late than never.
“I just told the kids that in games like this, there’s going to be a rush. We’ve just got to be able to withstand the rush and keep our composure when something happened,” Coffey said. “The kids did that, and they came fighting back.”
The loss was a bitter end to an exciting night of football, but the outcome didn’t overwhelm the Muscogee players. They celebrated the chance they had to hit the field again, sharing parting words about brotherhood and representing their home city the right way.
Friday’s all-star game was one last chance for some of Muscogee County’s top seniors to show out together. Though the scoreboard did not show in their favor, there’s no doubt they did just that.
“It was a big opportunity to show what Muscogee County and the Columbus area got,” said Cunningham, who took home Offensive MVP honors. “Everybody came out here and didn’t give up. We played until the final whistle.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports