By Sam Martin
Coweta Score Special Correspondent
Heritage School’s 28-24 loss Friday at home against Valwood revealed young leadership on both sides of the ball as well as a need to take care of the football.
Despite a gutsy performance from the Hawks, three consecutive turnovers in the second half derailed a chance to knock off the defending GISA Class AAA state champions.
Entering at 4-0 overall with a win over Deerfield-Windsor in last week’s opening crossover game against Region 3-AAA, the Hawks stood toe-to-toe with last year’s 3-AAA champions while only trailing for the final two-plus minutes.
Valwood, coming off its first loss of 2018 against North Florida Christian, had to rally back with 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter in order to avoid another defeat.
Defense helped carry the Hawks while equally capitalizing on Valwood’s offensive mistakes. Heritage countered with interceptions that ended the Valiants’ first-two possessions.
Following a pick by Peter Nell, a second Heritage interception was returned by Patrick Griffies for the Hawks’ first points of the night with 9:06 left in the first quarter.
Heritage’s defense, headed by brothers Ben and Vinny Carnazzo, helped hold the Valiants to only two scores entering the final 12 minutes after taking leads of 17-7 into halftime and 24-15 into the fourth quarter.
Valwood, led by the run game of senior Ashton McNeil, initially tied the game at 7-7 on a 6-yard touchdown run following Griffies’ return.
Nell, a starting right back for the Heritage soccer team, showcased his leg at the start of the second quarter with a 17-yard field goal while also a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points with starting kicker Keirnan Skelly still nursing an injury.
Heritage added another touchdown with 34 seconds left in the half on a 55-yard pass from senior quarterback Henry Arnall to sophomore Andrew Rich. The duo connected multiple times throughout the night racking up yards on the Valiants’ secondary.
The teams traded scores in a slow third quarter, with the Hawks coming on a 20-yard run from Arnall after Valwood had closed Heritage’s lead to 17-15.
Valwood’s fourth quarter comeback began with a 50-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Caleb Burns.
Burns added another score on a 10 yard pass with two minutes left in the game. Three straight Heritage turnovers finally allowed Valwood to run out the final 37 seconds.
Valiants 28, Hawks 24
Heritage 7 10 7 0 -24
Valwood 7 0 8 13 -28