During Friday night’s game between the Coffee Trojans and the Ware County Gators in Waycross, there was one moment when the stadium was silent. It came at the end of the game with no time left as officials determined whether or not Chris Jones, who had caught a 67-yard Hail Mary from freshman quarterback Thomas Castellanos as time expired, made it into the end zone to make it a one-point game.
Both teams and their fans waited almost silently for what seemed like an eternity on the officiating crew to make the call. Eventually, the officials ruled that Coffee’s Azi Johnson brought Jones down at the one-foot line, ending the Gators’ chance at a comeback by just inches. Coffee won the game 21-14 despite not scoring a single point in the second half.
Last week, the Trojans started off slow then hit their stride in the second half against Salem. It was exactly the opposite this week. Coffee jumped out to an early lead, forced a few Ware County turnovers, and controlled the tempo of the game to take a 21-7 lead into halftime.
That would be all the points Coffee would score.
The Trojans took the opening kick and launched a 68-yard drive that ended with a 37-yard touchdown run by B.J. Hodge. Coffee pinned the Gators deep in their own territory then forced a punt that gave the Trojans the ball at the Ware 47. Fueled in part by a big run by Josiah Killebrew, Coffee scored another touchdown, this one on a two-yard scamper by quarterback A.J. Wilkerson. With just 34 seconds left in the first quarter, the Trojans had a 14-0 lead.
Both offenses fought to a draw for most of the second quarter. Ware did manage a score on a seven-yard run by Castellanos with just over nine minutes left in the half. Then late in second quarter, the Coffee defense forced Castellanos to make a mistake. Under pressure, he lobbed a pass to a receiver in the flat. It was short and a pair of Coffee defenders keyed in on the ball. Sophomore defensive back Travaris Jackson got to it first and intercepted the pass – the first of three Trojan takeaways against Ware. He fell at the Ware 44 with 2:20 left in the half.
The Trojans began the short march downfield. Killebrew picked up another big first down on fourth and one to keep the drive going. Wilkerson then completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to receiver K.J. Davis, who had two Gators all over him in the end zone. He held on to the ball to give Coffee a 21-7 lead with just 38 seconds in the second quarter. The first half ended without the score changing.
Nobody scored again until late in the fourth quarter when Ware found its passing game and Castellanos completed a 62-yard touchdown pass with 3:50 left in the game. Holding on to a slimmer-by-the-minute 21-14 lead, the Trojans had one more chance to seal the victory. Wilkerson and company had a little success sustaining the drive but ultimately, the Ware defense proved too formidable. The Gators forced a Coffee punt with four seconds left on the clock. The Gators called a fair catch at their own 33. Castellanos and the rest of the Gators had four seconds to make something happen.
Castellanos took the snap and rolled to his right. Pursued by several Trojans, he launched a high Hail Mary that hung in the air for what seemed like days. The ball landed in Jones’s arms and he broke for the end zone. Johnson wasn’t far behind. It took him a few seconds to catch Jones but Johnson finally did. He made the tackle at the one-foot line, securing the win for Coffee.
The Trojans are now 3-0 on the season and next face another set of Trojans, those from J.P. Taravella High School (Coral Springs, Fla.) at Jardine Stadium next Friday. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.