Class 3A: Pierce County 13, Oconee County 7 (overtime)

Pierce County running back DJ Bell (1) scores the game-winning touchdown in overtime to win 13-7 against Oconee County during the Class 3A state high school football final at Center Parc Stadium on Wednesday, December 30, 2020 in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Pierce County running back DJ Bell (1) scores the game-winning touchdown in overtime to win 13-7 against Oconee County during the Class 3A state high school football final at Center Parc Stadium on Wednesday, December 30, 2020 in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Pierce County running back D.J. Bell said it “felt like a ring on my finger” when he turned the corner and saw nothing but green grass between him and the end zone on the Bears’ first offensive play in overtime,

Bell’s teammates will be able to experience that same feeling after his 15-yard touchdown run down the left sideline gave Pierce County a 13-7 victory over Oconee County in the Class 3A championship game Wednesday afternoon at Center Parc Stadium.

The state title is the first for No. 6 Pierce County (13-1), which began playing football in 1981. Second-ranked Oconee County (12-1) was trying to win a championship for the first time since 1999. The Warriors lost to Blessed Trinity 17-14 last year in the Class 4A final before moving down in reclassification.

Bell’s game-winning touchdown run came on the first play after Oconee County quarterback was intercepted by Daytin Baker on the Warriors’ first play of overtime.

Baker’s interception was his second of the day and one of three by Pierce County in a game that was dominated by the defenses. Oconee County came in allowing 9.8 points per game while Pierce County was giving up 9.9, and neither surrendered a point in the first 38 minutes of the championship game.

Pierce County finished with 265 yards of offense, well below its average of 342.5, and 10 first downs. Oconee County, which was averaging 308.3 yards per game, was held to 164 yards and eight first downs.

“We knew it was going to be tough sledding,” Pierce County coach Ryan Herring said. “We’ve watched every film they had, and they’ve played against good people. It’s hard to score on them, but it’s dang sure hard to run on them. We knew we were going to have to earn every yard, and they made us. And we didn’t earn many of them until right there towards the end.”

Bell was the only player on either team to have much success on offense in a scoreless first half, rushing for 45 of his team’s 68 yards as the team’s combined for only 135 total yards and six first downs.

After halftime, Bell took the direct snap from center on 17 of the Bears’ 25 plays, adding 113 yards to finish with 158 yards on 29 carries.

“We did that all year,” Bell said of taking the direct snap. “That’s how we won most of our games, so we had to pull it out of the bag.”

Pierce County running back DJ Bell (1, left) celebrates with Luke Bennett (10) and LJ Newton (14) after Bell scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Pierce County running back DJ Bell (1, left) celebrates with Luke Bennett (10) and LJ Newton (14) after Bell scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Oconee County finally broke the scoring drought with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Wright to Jake Johnson with 10:09 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Pierce County answered on its next possession, driving 80 yards in seven plays and tying the score at 7-7 with 7:23 left on a 5-yard touchdown run by Bell, who carried five times for 32 yards on the drive. The key play, however, was a 45-yard pass from Jermaine Brewton to Zay Plummer on third-and-13 that moved the ball from the Pierce 17-yard line to the Oconee County 38. Brewton was 9-of-11 passing for 97 yards for the game.

Neither team threatened to score in the final seven minutes, sending the game to overtime.

C.J. Jones was the leading rusher for Oconee County with 26 yards on nine carries. Wright was 11-of-21 passing for 98 yards and was part of the Warriors’ longest play, a 27-yard pass to Darius Johnson.

“Unbelievable, unmatched.” Herring said of his defense. “I’ve been a coach for 24 years, and I’ve always been a defensive guy. To play like that in a state championship game … I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Pierce County running back DJ Bell (1) celebrates with fans after scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime to win 13-7 against Oconee County during the Class 3A state high school football final at Center Parc Stadium Wednesday, December 30, 2020 in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Pierce County running back DJ Bell (1) celebrates with fans after scoring the game-winning touchdown in overtime to win 13-7 against Oconee County during the Class 3A state high school football final at Center Parc Stadium Wednesday, December 30, 2020 in Atlanta. JASON GETZ FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Pierce County - 0-0-0-7-6 - 13

Oconee County - 0-0-0-7-0 - 7

Fourth quarter

OC - Jake Johnson 13 pass from Jacob Wright (Nicholas Silva kick), 10:09

PC - D.J. Bell 5 run (Robert Jacobs kick), 7:23

Overtime

PC - D.J. Bell 15 run

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