Published Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cougars welcome trip home for semifinals after dramatic playoff win over Grayson

By Tommy Camp

The Newnan Times-Herald

It's interesting that the two most dramatic plays in Newnan football playoff history came in state quarterfinal games and on the road.

The first occurred back in 2003 when Santez Mays ran 55 yards with a loose ball Sergio Render had knocked away from Parkview's quarterback with just seven seconds to play to give Newnan a 20-14 win.

The second happened Friday when Alec Ogletree blocked a Grayson field goal attempt from the Newnan 24 with five seconds left to preserve the Cougars' 9-7 win.

The hair-raising victory catapulted Newnan into Friday's state semifinal game at home against Northside Warner Robins, a 20-17 winner over Peachtree Ridge in triple overtime.

The Cougars won the coin toss to host Friday's matchup.

The win over Grayson was hard-earned and the two-point victory was the narrowest margin for the Cougars since they beat Coffee, 28-25, in the second round in 2007.

Newnan was held to its lowest offensive output of the year and had to rally in the second half to forge ahead then stave off two Grayson threats in the final 2:14 of the game.

A Grayson field goal attempt from 52 yards out with 2:14 left to play, set up by a 34-yard pass off a fake punt on fourth and 10 at its own 32, was short.

But the Rams were right back in business one minute, 12 seconds later.

Following the missed field goal, Newnan got the ball at its own 20, but three plays later faced a fourth and 15 from the 15.

In the meantime Grayson had called its final two timeouts and Newnan, then milking the clock for all it could get, allowed it to run down to 1:10 before stopping play prior to punting.

Patrick McAlpin's kick carried out to near midfield and was returned to the Newnan 36 where Grayson set up shop with 1:02 to play.

A first down run carried to the 25, but the Cougar defense stiffened and Grayson quarterback Patrick Santry spiked the ball at the Newnan 16 two snaps later with 11 seconds to play.

Newnan called the obligatory time out to attempt to ice placekicker Austin Clark.

When the Rams snapped the ball Ogletree rushed in from the right side of the Cougar line and snuffed the kick causing a mass eruption of joy and celebration on the field and in the Newnan stands.

When the dust had cleared there were only 5.7 seconds left on the clock.

Newnan had taken a 3-0 led in the first quarter on McAlpin's 36-yard field goal, his first of the year and only the second of the season for the Cougars.

Jake Oldham had a 20-yarder against Riverdale back in game six.

Grayson went up 7-3 in the second quarter after driving 77 yards against Newnan in a 15-all-on-the-ground-play series that took seven and a half minutes off the clock.

It was the first touchdown Newnan had given up from scrimmage in the playoffs this year.

It was also the longest drive of the year by an opponent in terms of plays run and duration.

Newnan trailed by those four points at halftime marking the third straight week the Cougars were behind at the break after leading all 10 of their regular season opponents at halftime.

The Cougars also failed to score a touchdown in the first half for the second straight week after outscoring their first 11 opponents 229-38 in the first and second quarters.

Newnan took the lead in the third quarter with a 63-yard, seven play drive topped off by a first and goal six-yard pass from Lendell Arnold, who was four-of-five throwing the ball during the drive for 56 yards, to Ogletree who made a leaping one-handed grab in the end zone.

The drive was the 22nd of the year of 60 yards or more for Newnan.

It was Ogletree's fifth touchdown reception of the year, but first in the playoffs and Arnold's 15th of the season and third of the playoffs.

The come-from-behind win was the fourth in a row for the Cougars who went through their first nine games trailing only for short periods against LaGrange in the second quarter and against Creekside in the first.

The Newnan defense was superb.

Of Grayson's 11 possessions, Newnan gave up the one touchdown but forced five three-and-outs, six punts, two turnovers and two missed field goals.

Grayson became the 10th team this year Newnan has held to a touchdown or less.

The win broke a four-game playoff losing streak on the road for the Cougars dating back to the Camden County game in the Georgia Dome in the 2003 semifinals.

The Parkview "miracle" was Newnan's last post-season win on the road before Friday.

The victory, Newnan's eighth in its last 10 playoff contests, pushed the Cougars over the .500 mark all-time in playoff action for the first time since 1951 at 24-23.

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