Sandy Creek hangs on to beat Carrollton for AAA title

The Sandy Creek Patriots moved down in classification one year after winning the AAAA championship in 2009. It didn’t make any difference, because the results turned out the same.

Sandy Creek built a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter and then held on by a matter of inches to defeat Carrollton 14-7 in the Class AAA championship game Saturday at the Georgia Dome.

“That’s the thing that we said back at the beginning of the year was that we wanted to win back-to-back championships to make sure that everybody recognized us as one of the top programs in the state of Georgia,” Sandy Creek coach Chip Walker said.

Sandy Creek, which defeated Clarke Central 29-15 in the 2009 Class AAAA final, became the third team in Georgia history to win consecutive titles in different classifications. Decatur was the first to do it (in 1949 and 1950), and Buford matched the feat in 2001-02.

Carrollton appeared poised to tie the score in the final minutes before Sandy Creek’s Jamal Ware came up with the play of the game. On second-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Carrollton’s Telvin Brown ran to the left and was stretching for the end zone as he got inside the 1, but Ware slid over and knocked the ball out of his hands. Sandy Creek’s Quinteze Williams recovered the fumble at the 9 with 1:59 to play, and the Patriots were able to run out the clock.

That was one of several missed opportunities for Carrollton in the second half. The Trojans had the ball in Sandy Creek territory on three of their four second-half possessions but could not come away with any points. Mike Hilton stopped one Carrollton drive with an interception, his second of the night, in the end zone after Carrollton had reached the Sandy Creek 40. Carrollton also turned it over on downs at the Sandy Creek 9 when it failed to convert a pass on fourth-and-2.

“Our defense is what won us the ballgame,” Walker said. “I told ’em at halftime that if they didn’t score, they wouldn’t win, and that’s what our defense did.”

Sandy Creek (15-0) built its early lead on the running of senior Derrick Alexander. Facing a defense that was allowing just 67 yards per game rushing, Alexander had more than that by the nine-minute mark of the second quarter. His 7-yard touchdown run with 7:38 to play in the first half gave Sandy Creek a 14-0 lead. Alexander finished the first half with 90 yards and had 131 yards on 27 carries in the game.

Quarterback Ronnie Bell got Sandy Creek’s first score on 3-yard run with 5:58 to play in the first quarter. Bell finished with 52 yards rushing on five carries and was 8-for-15 passing for 108 yards. Carrollton (14-1) closed the gap to 14-7 with 36 seconds remaining in the first half on a 37-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Barge to his brother, Josh Barge.

Sandy Creek – 7-7-0-0 – 14

Carrollton – 0-7-0-0 – 7

S – Ronnie Bell 3 run (Mitchell McMillin kick)

S – Derrick Alexander 7 run (McMillin kick)

C – A.J. Barge 37 pass to Josh Barge (Joseph Ingui kick)