McEachern 34, South Gwinnett 28 (2OT)

McEachern players prepare to take the field before their first-round playoff game against South Gwinnett on Nov. 12, 2021. McEachern won 34-28 in two overtime periods.

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McEachern players prepare to take the field before their first-round playoff game against South Gwinnett on Nov. 12, 2021. McEachern won 34-28 in two overtime periods.

Kaleb Webb gave McEachern the lead with a 7-yard touchdown reception from Bryce Archie in the second overtime period, and the Indians’ defense got a fourth-down stop on South Gwinnett’s final possession to preserve a 34-28 victory in the first round of the Class 7A football playoffs Friday night in Powder Springs.

The victory puts McEachern (7-4), the Region 2 champion, in the second round for the eighth time in nine seasons. The Indians will be at home next Friday to face fourth-ranked Mill Creek (10-1), which advanced with a 49-20 victory over West Forsyth. Mill Creek was the runner-up to No. 1 Collins Hill in Region 8.

South Gwinnett, the No. 4 seed from Region 4, finished the season 5-6.

“We did some very good things tonight,” McEachern coach Franklin Stephens said. “We’d have a miscue here or there to get into some situations we didn’t want to be in, but I can’t be more proud of the resiliency our kids showed tonight. When we had to have plays made in the second half or whatever, they found a way to make plays.”

South Gwinnett took a 28-21 lead in the first overtime on a 5-yard run by Jayshawn Appling, but McEachern answered with a 1-yard touchdown run by Makari Bodiford.

In the second overtime, McEachern had the ball first-and-goal at the 5-yard line but was back to the 7 by third down, when Webb scored the go-ahead touchdown. A low snap led to a missed extra point, making it 34-28 with South Gwinnett’s possession coming up.

The Comets threw an incomplete pass on first down and got 2-yard runs by Tahmel on second and third downs, but South Gwinnett’s fourth-down pass was stopped at the 6, a yard short of the first down, to end the game.

The game-winning touchdown reception capped another outstanding night for Webb, a three-star recruit who has committed to East Carolina. He finished with 217 yards on 10 receptions and scored the game’s first points on a 65-yard pass from Archie on the Indians’ first drive of the night. Webb led Class 7A in receiving yards during the regular season with 1,238.

Archie, committed to Coastal Carolina, passed for 332 yards and three touchdowns and scored on a 1-yard run.

The Indians took a drastically different approach than they did last week in a 33-20 victory over Pebblebrook that clinched the region title. In that game, McEachern ran for 380 yards, with three backs reaching the 100-yard mark. Against South Gwinnett, however, McEachern was limited to 63 rushing yards while attempting 32 passes.

“I think it’s flexible when you can be balanced, when you can go in and you don’t have to panic because you know your offense can get up and down the field,” Stephens said.

South Gwinnett broke a 14-14 tie with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Nathaniel Miller to Isi Okonji on the first play of the fourth quarter. The Comets held onto the lead through a couple of exchanges of possession until Archie’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Savion West tied the game 21-21 with 4:13 remaining in regulation.

South Gwinnett got the ball twice in the final four minutes but never moved the ball past its own 30.

McEachern failed to take advantage of several other scoring opportunities. The Indians lost a fumble at the South Gwinnett 2-yard line in the first quarter, threw an incomplete pass on a fake field goal from the 18 in the third, and had a touchdown pass in the fourth nullified by a penalty.

South Gwinnett rushed for 174 yards, including 169 combined from Appling (69), Davis (55) and Glenn Rouse (45), and finished with 325 total yards.

South Gwinnett - 7-7-0-7-7-0 - 28

McEachern - 7-7-0-7-7-6 - 34

First quarter

M - Kaleb Webb 65 pass from Bryce Archie (Lucas Wynn kick), 9:22

S - Jayshawn Appling 55 run (Eric Calvillo kick), 0:35

Second quarter

S - Glenn Rouse 3 run (Calvillo kick), 5:22

M - Archie 1 run (Wynn kick), 2:19

Fourth quarter

S - Isi Okonji 10 pass from Nathaniel Miller (Calvillo kick), 11:56

M - Savion West 29 pass from Archie (Wynn kick), 4:13

First overtime

S - Appling 5 run (Calvillo kick)

M - Makari Bodiford 1 run (Wynn kick)

Second overtime

M - Webb 7 pass from Archie (kick failed)