TUNNEL HILL —
There weren’t many things Northwest Whitfield football coach Josh Robinson could say to ease his players’ pain Friday night.
Not after their season ended the way it did.
After rallying from down 14 points in the fourth quarter, Northwest lost 40-37 to Gilmer triple overtime at Bruin Stadium. The Region 7-4A crossover game came with a spot in the Class 4A state playoffs for the winner, so the Bobcats (8-2) move on but the Bruins (6-4) are done for the year.
“There’s not a lot I can say to make them feel better,” Robinson said.
The Bruins (6-4) struck first in overtime with a 2-yard run from Chris Tinson to take a 27-20 lead. Gilmer responded when quarterback Marlen Hensley found Colt Henderson for a 3-yard touchdown pass.
Hensley gave Gilmer the lead on a 1-yard rushing score. On Northwest’s responding possession, Northwest lineman Cameron Atkins recovered an O’Shea Hill fumble in the end zone to keep the Bruins alive.
In the third overtime, Gilmer’s defense held Northwest to a 28-yard field goal from Kevin Santano. On the first play of the Bobcats’ drive, Hensley found Henderson on a wheel route for a 15-yard scoring reception to end the game.
“It was a slant and a wheel,” Gilmer coach Wesley Tankersley said. “We had been throwing a slant to Connor (Webber), and they bit on it and we hit the wheel.”
The 2012 season was an up-and-down one for Northwest. Back-to-back losses to Dalton and Ridgeland followed a 4-1 start and preceded two wins to close out the Sub-region 7B-4A slate and lock up a third-place finish and matchup with Sub-region 7A-4A No. 2 seed Gilmer.
“I think we had some disappointing losses,” senior quarterback Silas Ledford said, “but we never gave up and kept fighting, and that’s something to hand your hat on.”
Ledford finished 17-for-38 passing for 348 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Hill caught both touchdowns, the second a game-changing play, and had 11 receptions for 264 yards.
On fourth-and-8 and with the Bruins trailing 20-6 with 6:47 to play, Ledford found a streaking Hill for an 81-yard touchdown in double coverage.
After Northwest’s defense held, Ledford found Hill again on third-and-10. This time it was a slant route, and this time it went for 60 yards to the Gilmer 10. Two 5-yard carries by Tinson later, the Bruins were tied at 20.
The Bobcats’ Manny Lopez had a 42-yard field goal go wide left with 13.4 seconds left in the game.
In the first quarter, Webber stripped the ball from a scrambling Ledford and returned it to the Northwest 1. Cameron Kephart’s 1-yard score gave Gilmer a 6-0 lead. The Bobcats took a 13-0 halftime lead after a 50-yard touchdown pass from Hensley to Austin Cole.
Northwest scored a touchdown 57 seconds into the second half on a 19-yard pass from Ledford to Hill. Gilmer stretched its lead to 20-6 early in the fourth quarter on a 4-yard scoring run from Henderson.