LOUISVILLE, Ga. --- B.J. Bostic emerged from a cluster of celebrating fans and grinned as his coach yanked him down in a headlock.
Jefferson County had just escaped a sure loss in a Class AA second-round playoff game against Thomasville on Friday night, inverting it into a historic win for a team that had never before won two playoff games in the same season.
"There was no shakeup, no nothing," said coach J.B. Arnold, whose team trailed by three points after Thomasville scored a touchdown with 46 seconds left. "I'm going to be honest with you, as long as I can put the ball in (Bostic's) hands ... you never know what can happen."
The Warriors forced overtime with a 30-yard field goal on the final play, then prevailed on Bostic's 1-yard run in overtime to clinch a 24-17 win and their first appearance in the state quarterfinals. The Warriors will meet reigning state finalist Calhoun next week in a location determined by a coin flip this morning.
"We have no quit, absolutely no quit," Arnold said. "No laying down, no quit. They just wanted it."
Jefferson County (12-0) created four turnovers on defense, then saved its best performance for overtime. Against an offense that had burned it for 14 second-half points, mostly on runs between the tackles, the Warriors gave up five yards on four plays. They stuffed wide receiver Fred Holton, a Georgia Tech recruit, for no gain on a misdirection play on fourth-and-five on the possession after Bostic's touchdown.
"The offense scoring (first) really put a charge in them," Arnold said.
Bostic, also a Georgia Tech recruit, set up the tying field goal with a kickoff return to midfield and completions of 18, 3 and 17 yards down to the 13-yard line.
"They're a spread team and did what they had to do to get down there," Thomasville coach Richie Marsh said. "They made it happen, and we didn't. I have to give them credit. ... They won in overtime, so they deserve credit."
Thomasville (8-4), a five-time state champion, played without starting quarterback Charles Hayes (sprained ankle). Replacement Jeffery Dyson threw three first-half interceptions, one of which set up Jefferson County's lone score before the intermission. The Warriors missed two field goals (43, 27 yards) and had just 102 yards at halftime despite gaining 27 on the first play.
Bostic's 28-yard scoring pass to Stan Smith with 9:09 left seemed like it would hold up when the Warriors forced a Thomasville punt. But Jefferson County punted the ball right back, setting up the drive that resulted in that final-minute TD. On the final play of regulation, Thomas Prichard, a sophomore wearing lime-green soccer shoes, booted an arching kick that split the uprights.
"Everyone was praying, holding hands, saying we loved each other no matter what happened," Bostic said. "I knew he was going to redeem himself. I just knew it."
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.
JEFFERSON COUNTY 24, THOMASVILLE 17 (OT)
Play of the game: Pick any of B.J. Bostic 's plays in the final 46 seconds: a kickoff return to midfield or four completions down to the 13-yard line.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Bostic accounted for three touchdowns, but Jefferson County kicker Thomas Prichard hit a 30-yard field goal on the last play of regulation to extend the game. He missed his previous two attempts.
WHY JEFFERSON COUNTY WON: It refused to give up when its season looked doomed. Creating four turnovers also helped.
WHY THOMASVILLE LOST: It ran the ball very well (255 yards) but couldn't stop Bostic when the game was on the line.
NEXT: Jefferson County (12-0) will play fellow unbeaten Calhoun on Friday in the quarterfinals.