Pulaski Academy used 36 unanswered points to defeat Watson Chapel 50-28 on Friday in the first round of the 5A state playoffs.
The Wildcats led the Bruins at halftime 28-14, but big plays from junior receiver Will Hastings and sophomore wide receiver Zack Kelley damaged Watson Chapel in the second half.
Both teams were scoreless in the first quarter, with the Wildcats’ defense making big stops every time the Bruins attempted to convert on fourth down. Senior linebacker Larry Cunning and junior defensive lineman Michael Barker constantly got pressure to the backfield. Watson Chapel sophomore defensive back Quenton Douglas intercepted a pass on the Bruins first fourth down conversion attempt and junior linebacker Michael Demery broke up a potential touchdown pass on Pulaski Academy’s second drive on fourth down.
“We did a good job getting them off on fourth down and offensively we were able to put points on the board,” said Watson Chapel head coach George Shelton.
In the opening moments of the second quarter, senior Kirel Young intercepted a pass from quarterback Will Hefley in the back of the end zone and returned it to the Chapel 40 yard line. A would-be 30-yard touchdown run by Devonte Battles was negated by an illegal block-in-the-back penalty. But it only took Battles two more plays to find the end zone from 9 yards out.
A two-point conversion by Trayveon Woods put the Wildcats up 8-0 with 9:14 left in the first half.
On fourth-and-9 from their own 12 during the Bruins’ next drive, a bad snap sailed over sophomore quarterback Tre Bruce’s head and he was brought down by a host of Wildcat defenders at the 1. Battles took advantage of the field position and scored. A two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the Wildcats got on top of the Bruins 14-0 with 8:12 left to go in the first half.
Hefley hooked up with Hastings to put up Pulaski Academy’s first score of the night. The Wildcats stopped the Bruins at the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt.
On third-and-14 from the the Bruins 48, McCullough converted a pass to sophomore running back Trey Cole to the Bruins 32-yard line. A few seconds later McCullough found Young in the end zone from 15 yards out. A conversion was unsuccessful.
On Pulaski Academy’s next drive the Bruins found themselves in their own territory by not being able to move the chains pass the 30 yard line. Senior defensive lineman Jonovon Reed sacked Hefley on third down. The next play, senior linebacker Josh Harris intercepted a pass from Hefley and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.
A conversion was successful this time and extended the Wildcat lead to 28-6 with 2:52 left to play in the first half.
Hefley effectively moved the Bruin offense down the field and connected again with Hastings on a 17-yard touchdown pass. Pulaski Academy cut into Watson Chapel’s lead, 28-14, with the extra two points.
The Bruins opened the second half with recovering an onside kick on Wildcats’ 37. On the following play Bruce ran through Watson Chapel’s defense for a touchdown. A field goal cut down on the Wildcats’ lead 28-21.
At the Chapel 15, the Bruins threatened to score but junior defensive back Kelwin Johnson intercepted a pass in the end zone for a touchback. Pulaski Academy’s defense built momentum and the Wildcats elected to punt on fourth and 10 from their own 20.
Hefley tossed a 63-yard touchdown pass to Hastings again and an extra point tied the game up 28-28 with 6:44 left in the third. The Wildcats appeared to not have an answer for Hastings.
“We were able to get a lead and it’s a game of momentum,” Shelton said. “They got the momentum in the second half with the onside recovery and big quick score and then it kind of snowballed from there.”
The Bruins scored again after an unsportsmanlike penalty 3 minutes left with Kelley scoring on a short touchdown to give Pulaski Academy its first lead of the game 35-28.
Before the end of the third quarter, Kris McCullough threw an interception as he tried to convert a fourth down into Bruin territory. After a big gain from Zack Kelley’s 48 yard catch, senior Tyler Colquitt scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to extend Pulaski Academy’s lead to 42-28.
At the 9:11 mark of the final quarter, Kelley caught a 50-yard pass in Wildcat territory and then caught an 18-yard touchdown pass, giving the Bruins a 50-28 lead with the conversion.
The Wildcats’ offense finally gained momentum with 6:31 left. Cole jumped over a Bruin defensive back for a 35-yard touchdown. A Harris conversion made the score 50-36.