WAYCROSS — Loganville has shown remarkable resiliency throughout the 2016 high school football season.
For a team filled with seniors and a veteran coaching staff, perhaps that comes as no surprise. The Devils displayed that valiant mentality early and often Friday night at Memorial Stadium, mostly out of necessity.
The home team Ware County Gators hit Loganville squarely on its proverbial jaw, racing out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and holding on to seal a 35-19 second-round playoff win.
“We were kind of shell-shocked (in the first quarter),” Loganville head coach Mike Humphreys said.
“We were able to kind of settle in and play better as the game went along but they got on us early.”
Ware County started the game with a three-play, 64-yard drive capped by an Alyx Sayles touchdown run.
Sayles scored again on a 1-yard run on the Gators’ next possession. Following a Loganville punt — a familiar theme of the first half — Gator quarterback JeMar Lincoln connected with Jeshad Howard on a 32-yard touchdown strike.
The rout looked to be on, but the Red Devil defense stiffened. Neither team scored a point in the game’s second frame.
The Red Devil offense finally broke through with a 7-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cameron Perkins to Rhett Mixon. The extra point was blocked as the Devils cut the deficit to 21-6.
“We challenged the kids at halftime to block better up front and they responded,” Humphreys said. “We were able to hit a couple plays and get some things going offensively.”
Ware County answered as Lincoln took a 31-yard option keeper into the end zone to make the score 28-6 in favor of the Gators.
The Devils refused to give in, as Perkins found tailback Darryl Giles wide open over the middle for a 39-yard touchdown pass.
With the score 28-13, the Devils were driving to pull the game to within one score when the sure-handed Giles fumbled, giving the ball to Ware County with 7 minutes, 14 seconds left to go in the game.
Lincoln added another rushing touchdown for the Gators and Mixon caught another touchdown pass late in the game to bring the game to its final score of 35-19.
In a season that saw Loganville reach nine wins for only the third time in program history, seniors were vital to the team’s success.
“That’s a great group of kids. They really built on what our seniors accomplished last year, and this junior class certainly has big shoes to fill next year,” Humphreys said.
“I’m proud of them.”
It is impossible to tell what the future holds for Loganville football. One thing, however, is for certain: Winning no longer comes as a surprise to the men in Red and White. Winning has now become an expectation.