While the game didn’t look the finest at times, the High Country Grizzlies (3-3) used a tough, defensive effort to beat the Georgia Firebirds (2-5), 47-31, sweeping the season series.
The Firebirds were the first on the board thanks to quarterback Craig Belton III finding Brian Foy, Jr., who beat the jack linebacker on his way to the end zone and a 7-0 lead. The Grizzlies’ first drive looked just as good, but Stephen Panasuk couldn’t find Darron Clark in the end zone on fourth down, giving Georgia their first stop of the game. Larry Ford, however, would quickly make up for things, as he batted a pass into the air and caught it for a touchdown.
The Firebirds thought they retook the lead a few plays later thanks to a catch over the end zone wall, but the officials ruled that the receiver did not have a foot down before going over the boards, so the pass was ruled incomplete. High Country used that to force a fourth-down stop, but suffered one of their own after the turnover on downs.
The theme of turnovers continued throughout most of the remainder of the first half. Jed Soloman did kick a 28-yard field goal to give Georgia a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter, and Undra Hendrix lived up to his nickname “Wrecking Ball” when he bowled into the end zone from four yards out to give the Grizzlies a 14-10 lead.
After a fumbled snap by Belton, the defense then put down the clamps and forced another turnover on downs inside the Firebirds’ five-yard line, beginning a short drive that ended with a Panasuk sneak for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead with 3:25 left in the first half. Georgia answered with a second touchdown from Brian Foy, Jr, despite visual evidence showing Foy being pushed into the boards before running into the end zone. Nevertheless, it was 20-17 High Country at halftime after defensive back Jason Johnson grabbed a ball that bounced off the back dashers for an interception.
Tempers flared at the start of the second half, as following a sack on Panasuk, both teams traded 10-yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness, and the penalties continued to mount for Georgia, helping the Grizzlies continue a drive ending with a touchdown from Panasuk to Jason Williams.
Even with William Tudmond in at quarterback, the story stayed the same as High Country’s defensive line pressured an awkward throw that landed in DeMarkus Berry‘s hands for another interception. It was all for naught, though, as the offense couldn’t maintain any communication, and a pass to nowhere meant another turnover on downs.
The frustrations mounted on both sides in the fourth quarter, but the Grizzlies persevered, continuing their defensive pressure with a Chase Blackburn sack on Craig Belton III, who returned to the game. Undra Hendrix cashed in another short run and the lead became 33-17. Georgia’s offense did pick up in the fourth quarter, but the best they could do was trade scores with High Country. Despite a late Hendrix fumble that would’ve sealed the game, but a Roshawn Marshall interception against his old team did the job in the final minutes.
High Country now has a week off to rest and heal before staying at home to face the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks on Saturday, May 20. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m.