It gave Ed Koester, the former Cherokee High coach, his first postseason win with the Spartans.
“It was a tremendous game,” said Koester, in his first season at South Paulding after previously coaching at South Cobb. “Sequoyah is a class act. They’re well-coached, well-prepared and a blood-and-guts team. We knew they would give us problems, but our kids answered up and got their minds right in the second half.”
Sequoyah (8-3) looked to be in South Paulding’s league for most of the game, but some costly missed opportunities for big plays evolved into a muffed punt that set the Spartans (10-1) up for a runaway.
With the game tied at 14-all, the Chiefs were on the move into Spartan territory to begin the second half, but a receiver dropped a wide-open fourth down pass that would have extended the drive.
Trailing 20-14 on the next drive, Sequoyah quarterback Lex Lauletta overthrew a would-be touchdown. Sequoyah mishandled the punt on the very next play, giving Burks the ball back on the 15-yard line.
The Kennesaw State commitment threw the first of his two touchdowns three plays later, hitting Khalia Hackett on a deep crossing pattern for the score.
Burks completed 10 of 11 passes for 200 yards and carried 18 times for 263 yards. He ran for two scores and threw for two, including a 75-yarder to Bowen that gave South Paulding a 34-21 lead with 7:34 left to play.
The Chiefs fumbled away their last opportunity to score, and Bowen scored from 43 yards out minutes later to put the game on ice.
“It was a tale of two different halves,” Sequoyah coach James Teter said. “In the first half, I think we played really awesome, and then, in the second half, we made some mistakes.
“We talked all week long. The teams that advance aren’t the teams with better athletes but the teams that play efficient and play good ball.”
Lauletta outshined the Spartans in the first quarter with rushing touchdowns of 37 and 18 yards. The senior was productive all night, rushing 15 times for 166 yards.
Running back Jake Garner helped out with 87 yards on 17 carries.
Teter told his players after the game that he purposely did not prepare a losing speech, and that he wished his seniors’ feelings of a season coming to an end could be felt by his underclassmen.
“You work four years for them to get to this point and, realistically in the first half, we played well enough to move on,” Teter said. “But reality sets in here a little bit. For some of them they may never play again. For some of them, it’s time to get ready for another year.”