CONYERS — Damien Lane made a new best friend out of teammate Xavier Atwater early in the fourth quarter.
With region foe Redan starting to creep back into the game early in the fourth quarter, Raiders quarterback Antoine Hector fumbled a snap deep inside Seminole territory that was scooped up by Lane.
Lane made it as far as he could, reaching the Raider 30-yard line before pitching the ball over his left shoulder to Atwater, who finished off the terrific play with a touchdown. The score gave the Seminoles a 16-point lead and they never looked back en route to a 32-16 win to improve to 4-1 on the season.
“I saw the ball on the ground and I got to running,” Lane said. “I knew I was going to get caught because I’m not the fastest. I saw my boy (Xavier) behind me and I just threw it to him. It ended the game just like that. I kept looking back thinking to myself, ‘who is going to get this ball?’ Because I knew I wasn’t going to score.”
“I had to go score,” Atwater said with a giant smile on his face. “I love that boy.”
The final score was closer than the Seminoles had hoped. Fresh off a dominant 44-13 win last week over Douglass to improve to 2-0 in Region 5-AAA, the Seminoles were hoping to run away with their third region win in a row.
Salem led Redan 26-8 at the half but managed just 10 points in the second half. Salem head coach Jarrett Laws gave credit to his defense for making big plays when he needed them the most in order to walk away with the win.
“I believe in bend but don’t break,” Laws said. “They are bending like a rubberband, but to their credit, when the moment comes when they’ve got to have it, they’ve consistently been there. I think that’s a credit to my new defensive coordinator, Al Blunt and Johnny Rutledge.”
The game was close after the first quarter horn sounded.
Salem scored first on a short 1-yard touchdown run from running back Joshua Rollerson-Williams and Redan answered right back with a rushing touchdown of their own. A 2-point conversion gave Redan an 8-6 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the quarter.
Redan’s lead lasted just 67 seconds, however. On the Seminoles ensuing possession, quarterback Deion Lewis found a wide open Jacari Porter on a quick slant and the junior receiver did the rest en route to a 58-yard touchdown.
“I saw that there was nobody on (Jacari) so we checked the play to a slant,” Lewis said. “It was supposed to be a run, but we said bump all that, we’re going to hit (Jacari) down the middle.”
Early in the third quarter, Lewis did it with his legs. After not finding any open receivers to throw to, Lewis took off and made several defenders miss en route to a 62-yard touchdown run.
A 2-point conversion from Lewis to Xavier Mcree gave the Seminoles a 20-8 lead with 8:55 left in the first half. Mcree wasn’t done scoring points for the Seminoles in the first half, With 20 seconds left in the half, Lewis found Mcree in the back left corner of the end zone from 16 yards out to extend their lead to 26-8.
Redan’s comeback attempt was sparked by a costly interception in the end zone from Lewis on Salem’s opening possession to start the second half.
The Raiders took advantage of the mistake and scored on the ensuing possession to cut the Salem lead to 10 points, 26-16.
After a quick three-and-out by the Seminole offense and a short punt, the Raiders took over inside Seminole territory looking to cut into the lead further.
Facing a third-and-16, Redan’s Hector found an open receiver down the middle of the field, but the pass was broken up by Salem’s Chris Brown, who delivered a vicious hit. The hit sent the ball flying into the air and into the hands of Salem’s Zion Gregg, who intercepted the ball.
After another Salem punt, the Raiders drove into Seminole territory again, but any chance of them trimming into the lead further ended when Hector fumbled the snap, setting up the miraculous scoop, pitch and score combination from Lane and Atwater to extend the lead to 16 points.
With the win, the Seminoles improve to 3-0 in region play, but will face a daunting task ahead with games against ranked Sandy Creek and Cedar Grove. Tough games against private school powers Greater Atlanta Christian and Westminster will follow those matchups.
Laws figures it will take two more region wins in order to qualify for the state playoffs. They will have five tries to get those two wins.
Having dressed just 37 players Friday night and needing many of their players to play both offense and defense, Laws said he knows what lies ahead will be tough, but hopes that once the final whistle of the season blows, his team will have earned the respect of their competitors.
“At the end of the day, I want people to say about my coaches and me that we did the most with what we were given, and we maxed it out,” Laws said. “At the end of the day when they calculate what we’ve done, if they can look at us and know that we got everything we could out of the group that we were given, I’m happy with that.”