The Sixth Grade American Team denied a potential game-tying 2-point conversion at the buzzer and held off a late Nationals’ rally for a 14-12 victory in Saturday’s opening game of the 2019 Georgia Elite Classic’s Middle School lineup. The Americans got on the board with 8:55 left in the opening quarter on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Grayson Stafford (Prince Avenue Christian) to Brady Marchese (McClure Middle), but a failed 2-point attempt kept the lead at 6-0. The margin held until just before the half when Christopher Miller (Connections Academy) connected with Marchese for a 74-yard touchdown pass with just 1:15 left in the half. Grayson Villar (McClure Middle) rumbled his way into the endzone on the ensuing 2-point conversion and the Americans took a 14-0 lead into the half.
The Nationals did not cut into the margin until late in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Caden Dawson (Blessed Trinity) capped off a 4-play drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to John Durden (Whitefield Academy) with just 1:04 left in the game, but the 2-point try failed and the Americans’ continued to lead 14-6. The Americans got the ball back and running back Tylil Jones (Tapp) was in the midst of picking up a first down, but Kolton Driskell (King’s Ridge) forced and recovered a fumble to give the Nationals the ball back near midfield with just 16 seconds left.
Hayes Griffin got the Nationals into scoring range with a 24-yard completion to Durden and the clock stopped as the Americans misused a challenge flag to question an unchallengable call. The Americans quickly got up to the line of scrimmage and then Griffin tossed it into a crowd of jerseys in the middle of the end zone. Multiple players got their hands on the football and it was first ruled as an interception, but then a challenge flag from the American sideline brought it under review and it was overruled–crediting Luke Gibbons (King’s Ridge) with a 16-yard touchdown catch. The Americans went for the potential game-tying 2-point conversion, but the pass went incomplete.
Marcheses finished with a game-high 93 receiving yards to go with his two touchdowns, while also adding four solo tackles and a tackle for loss defensively and was named the game’s MVP.
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