Vipers drop season opener 59-55
HUNTSVILLE -- Saturday night's season opener marked the debut for Tennessee Valley Vipers coach Dean Cokinos, quarterback Andy Hall and most of his teammates.
South Georgia spoiled the party with a game-winning touchdown pass on the game's final play.
The Wildcats beat the Vipers 59-55 in arenafootball2 action before an announced crowd of 4,302 at the Von Braun Center.
"We had an opportunity to win the game and we let it slip away," Tennessee Valley coach Dean Cokinos said. "We made a couple of critical turnovers in the second half. Regardless of what happened on that last play, we had a chance to put it away and we didn't do it."
On the final play, which started with five seconds left, South Georgia quarterback Cecil Lester completed a pass to Alvin Ray Jackson. Jackson then lateraled back to Lester to finish the 10-yard touchdown for the winning points.
Lester completed 27-of-45 passes for seven touchdowns and 375 yards with one interception. Hall finished with 23-of-40 for four touchdowns and 315 yards with two interceptions.
"I've been a part of some thrillers but I've never been a part of a finish like that," Hall said. "Wow, very last play of the game."
Tennessee Valley struck first when Travis Blanchard returned a South Georgia missed field goal 57 yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead. After taking over on downs at the South Georgia 14, the Vipers moved to the 7 on a pass interference call. Hall then hit Maurice Brown on a 7-yard touchdown pass. Nick Hayes kicked the extra point for a 13-0 lead.
South Georgia closed within 13-7 at the end of the first quarter when Lester threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to P.J. Berry. Scott Hode added the extra point.
Blanchard's 3-yard TD run and Hayes' kick put the Vipers up 20-7 at 9:34 in the second quarter. But the Wildcats made it 20-14 when Lester threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Antwone Savage. Two 1-yard touchdown runs by Matt Webber helped the Vipers to a 34-28 halftime lead.
The Wildcats tied the score 34-all at 11:05 in the third quarter on Lester's 18-yard scoring pass to Berry.
Tennessee Valley answered with Hall's 29-yard touchdown pass to Gary Elliott for a 41-34 lead. Hode's 22-yard field goal for South Georgia made it 41-37 at the end of the third.
Lester's 26-yard touchdown pass to Berry gave South Georgia a 52-48 lead in the game's final minute. But the Vipers answered with Hall's 14-yard touchdown pass to Elliott for a 55-52 Tennessee Valley lead with 22 seconds left.
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