“It does hurt, and it’s supposed to hurt. But these kids have come a million miles — the young ones, older ones — they’ve just come a million miles. We’re not where we want to be. We all know that. You can tell by the way they are. But we’re getting there and I’m proud of them,” second-year VR coach Mike Falleur said. “Rome High School’s got a good football team, and we’re going to keep battling and we’re going to be there.”
The Wolves (7-2, 7-2 Region 5-AAAAA), who clinched a Class AAAAA state playoff berth with the win, got a huge night from junior tailback Myron Washington, who rushed for a game-high 253 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. His 57-yard burst to the end zone with 2:01 left in the game broke the 28-all tie for the game-winning score.
Still, the Wildcats (4-5, 4-5) had time for one last drive, as they got into Rome territory and ultimately down to the 15-yard line with 27 seconds remaining when they used their last timeout.
But on the final two plays of the game, VR was tackled in bounds on the first play and then Cat quarterback Kevin Martin was sacked as time expired in the game, as the offense got the final snap off just as clock struck all zeroes.
Rome took a 21-13 lead into halftime and opened the second half with a monster drive that ate up nearly the entire third quarter, going 71 yards in 16 plays and finding the end zone on a nine-yard Washington run to stretch the lead to 28-13 with 3:50 remaining in the quarter.
But rather than it serving as the back-breaker, the Wildcats responded, getting a huge lift from freshman Taye Holts, who returned the ensuing kickoff to the Rome 42.
That set up a seven-yard touchdown run by Martin with 1:05 left in the third quarter to make it a 28-20 contest.
VR recovered an onside kick after the score, but the Wildcats fumbled the ball back to the Wolves just three plays later. Villa Rica’s defense was able to step up and force a three-and-out, leading to another electrifying return by Holts.
The freshman phenom took the Rome punt deep in Wildcat territory and danced around the Wolves’ defense all the way down the field, eventually being taken down at the eight-yard line.
Two plays later, VR senior Jermaine Hutchinson rumbled in from six yards out, and Martin’s two-point conversion pass to Kelvin Bonds knotted the game up at 28-28 with 10:20 left in the fourth quarter.
After both teams traded punts, Washington capped off his amazing night — which included 151 rushing yards in the first quarter on just four touches — with the 57-yard scamper down the visiting sidelines.
Falleur said his young team will continue to grown and learn from the tough loss, noting that it’ll regroup and get ready for the season finale next week when North Paulding comes to town.
“Our kids have battled. They’ve played hard all year and they’re growing up. But you lose one like that, it ain’t a lot of fun,” Falleur said.
In the opening half, VR took the early 7-0 lead after marching 64 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a 2-yard Scooter Cousins touchdown run with 7:39 left in the first quarter.
Rome responded right away, using two long Washington runs on a six-play, 67-yard scoring drive, capped by a one-yard keeper by Bo Tucker.
After Washington’s 89-yard burst gave Rome its first lead at 14-7 with 2:17 left in the opening quarter, Villa Rica answered early in the second quarter, getting a five-yard touchdown connection from Martin to Cousins. Rome blocked the extra point attempt, leaving it a 14-13 margin with 9:45 to go in the half. Tucker tacked on a three-yard touchdown run with 5:14 left in the half for the 21-13 tally.
For the game, fellow junior Frank Griffin complemented Washington in the Rome backfield with 87 yards on 16 carries, while Martin completed 9-of-11 passes for 101 yards and a score for Villa Rica offensively. The junior signal-caller also rushed for 64 yards and a score on 10 carries. Hutchinson finished with 76 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Falleur said the focus now is to finish the season on a positive note at home against North Paulding.
“I hope. We’ve got to bounce back and see how bad we’re banged up and go from there,” Falleur said.