EHRHARDT - The streak lives on, but it seemed like it was in jeopardy late in Andrew Jackson Academy's 38-34 home win against Patrick Henry Academy on Friday night.
The state's longest active high school football win streak moved to 35 games as the Confederates (9-0 record) made a defensive stand in the fourth quarter, then scored a late touchdown and recovered an onside kick after the Patriots (8-2 record) got in the end zone for the final score of the night.
The outcome was still up for grabs until AJA 8th-grader Jonathan Schaffer jumped to snag Patrick Henry's onside kick with 33 seconds remaining, securing the victory for the home team.
The win marked the third consecutive unbeaten regular season for AJA, earning them a first-round bye in SCISA 8-man Division II state playoffs this next week.
Sophomore tailback Trey Pulaski led the Confederates on offense with 20 carries for 207 yards and four touchdowns, including the winning touchdown on a 4th-down play from 3 yards out with 1:48 left to play. It was the lone score by the home team in the second half, after leading 32-6 at halftime.
Senior fullback Bailey Ackerman added 26 carries for 155 yards. Sophomore quarterback Colyn Peek added 10 carries for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns.
AJA has had two straight close calls in recent weeks, winning by 5 against Clarendon Hall two weeks ago before Friday's 4-point win.
"The guys played hard; they played well in the first half but not so good in the second half," AJA first-year head coach Willie Craven said. "That's a good team we just beat, as they came in here with just one loss. We just have to get healthy and ready for playoffs.
"Penalties hurt us tonight. You're proud of them, but there's a need for improvement all around. We've beaten everybody we will be playing (in playoffs), so they are going to be fired up coming back at us."
AJA opened the scoring on their first drive to start the game, with Pulaski racing 24 yards for a touchdown. The conversion failed for a 6-0 lead with 9:29 left in the first quarter.
PHA answered on its first drive, as Batten Bostick ran in a 1-yard score with 7:50 left in the quarter. Ackerman made the stop on the conversion attempt to keep the score 6-6.
Pulaski put AJA back up with a 35-yard scoring run on the following drive, spinning through the defense and breaking tackles down the home sideline. Ackerman added the 2-point run for a 14-6 lead with 5:54 left in the period.
AJA's defense forced a punt, before Peek took a 2nd-down snap and kept the ball on the option for a 63-yard scoring run. The conversion failed for a 20-6 score with 2:25 left in the quarter.
After another defensive stand, AJA mounted an 87-yard drive that lasted 13 plays and finished with Peek scoring from 5 yards out with 5:40 left to play in the half. The conversion was stopped, leaving the score 26-6.
Ackerman then made a 4th-down stop to get the ball back for the home team. The following 67-yard drive ended with Pulaski carrying the ball in from 2 yards out with 11 seconds left before the half. The conversion was denied, leaving the score 32-6 at the break.
PHA quarterback Jackson Wiggins broke a tackle and ran in the first score of the second half on the first drive of the third quarter, taking it 30 yards to paydirt. Bostick scored the conversion for a 32-14 score with 10:02 left in the third quarter.
AJA went for it on 4th down on the ensuing drive, but the pass fell incomplete. PHA then went 37 yards in 8 plays, punching in another score on a 1-yard run by Kyle Jarrell. The conversion was denied for a 32-20 score with 4:52 left in the third quarter.
AJA again went for it on 4th down on the following drive, with a pass falling incomplete from the PHA' 34-yard line. Bostick needed just one play from there to go 66 yards for another Patriots score. Wiggins passed to Daniel Hauptmann for the conversion and a 32-28 score with 1:41 left in the third.
AJA was stopped less than a yard short of the first down on another 4th-down attempt. PHA mounted a drive that was stopped 2 inches short of a first down at midfield. That set the Confederates up for their final 50-yard drive and Pulaski's final score.
A good kick return set up PHA at their own 48-yard line, from which they went 52 yards in 6 plays for a 9-yard touchdown pass from Wiggins to Hunter Spielman with 33 seconds left. Wiggins was sacked on the conversion attempt by Bryce Waltz, leaving the score 38-34. Then Schaffer made the grab on the onside kick to seal the win.
Senior Jordan Lee led AJA with 12 tackles, while Ackerman added 9 tackles and an interception on a conversion attempt, and Chandler Hayden added 8 tackles.
Junior Connor Gleaton, who plays on both sides of the ball for AJA, was injured and unable to play against Clarendon Hall and was out after an illness kept him from school this week. Plans are to have Gleaton back in pads and the team at full strength for playoffs.