On a night offenses struggled, Stephenson got the smidgen it needed.
But the drama didn’t end there, as the Region 2-AAAAA Jaguars (1-0) had to hold the Region 8-AAAAA Panthers (0-1) on their final possession in overtime. On fourth down, Parkview’s Kyle Fleetwood caught an 8-yard pass, but was tackled at the 10. Both teams missed field goal opportunities on their first overtime possessions. Parkview flubbed its initial chance on a low snap, and Stephenson’s Colin Anderson, a University of Alabama-Birmingham signee, missed his 28-yard attempt.
No. 6 Stephenson now leads the series 2-0. The Jaguars beat Parkview 20-14 in the state quarterfinals in 2005, the year it went to the semfinals in the Georgia Dome and lost to Lowndes.
Stephenson came back late in regulation Friday to tie 14-14 and force overtime. With 7:24 left in the fourth quarter, Tarver passed 4 yards to Dareon Herring for a touchdown.
Parkview cashed in the game’s first turnover when Raphael Kirby returned Mike Davis’ fumble 25 yards for a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the first quarter. Stephenson squandered two chances to equalize after blocking a punt and after Preston Smith’s fumble recovery at Parkview’s 9-yard line, but ultimately did take advantage when Willie Davis ran 2 yards to cap a 29-yard drive with 5:18 left in the opening half.
Parkview led 14-7 with 47 seconds left in the third quarter, when Fleetwood returned an interception 7 yards for a touchdown.
The win was a decisive initial step for the Jaguars, who are bidding for an 11th consecutive trip to the playoffs, following last year’s second-round showing against Colquitt County.
“What I like about this team is that there’s room for improvement,” said Stephenson coach Ron Gartrell. “Our offseason has been one of the best we’ve ever had, and it’s showing.”
Parkview coach Cecil Flowe said scheduling a team the caliber of Stephenson was good preparation for his team’s region play, which begins in Week 3.
“We’re just trying to see if we can get after someone for an entire 48 minutes,” Flowe said.
*Credit to AJC’s Michael Alpert