Hornets Survive Overtime Thriller

In a defensive slugfest, the Varsity Hornets toppled the Walton Raiders in overtime, 14-7. The Raiders were undefeated in the region, while Roswell was coming off their first region victory of the season against Lassiter. 

The Raiders’ night got off to a good start, as they picked up three first downs on their opening possession. However, the drive stalled inside Roswell’s 30, as Zak Roszman (10) turned the ball over on 4th down. On the Hornets’ opening drive (13 plays, 77 yards), Coach Matt Kemper stuck to the run, picking up steady yardage. As with Walton’s opening drive, Roswell stalled out inside Walton’s 25-yard line. Coach Kemper decided to go for it on 4th down. The gamble paid off, as Saveon McCrary (12) picked up 5 yards and a first down on the play. 2 plays later, the Hornets found the end zone on John Copenhaver ‘s (12) 8-yard run. Brian Najar’s extra point went through the uprights, putting Roswell up 7-0. There would be no further scoring in the quarter, as both teams buckled down defensively.

Joe Parker
Walton’s Zak Roszman (10) is sacked by Elijah Anderson (12) in the first quarter of a football game between the Roswell Hornets and the Walton Raiders.

4 possessions later, Walton regained possession, backed up inside the 10. Running Back Kenny Djaha (11) broke off runs of 7 and 22 yards, respectively, to give the Raiders better field position. This drive found the Hornets struggling to contain Djaha, and penalties did not help matters. The Hornets picked up 4 penalties, including a pass interference penalty, 2 offside penalties, and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. 16 plays and 90 yards later, Walton was on the board, with Zak Roszman (10) waltzing into the endzone for 6. Connor Cummins’ (11) kick was good, tying the ballgame at 7 apiece.

On the ensuing drive, Roswell started to regain some momentum, converting twice on third down. However, Ethan Roberts’ (12) pass went off the hands of Michael Fitzgerald (11) and into the hands of Austin Eldred (11), who returned it to the Hornets’ 37. On 1st down, Roszman appeared to have thrown an incomplete pass, but it was negated by a questionable pass interference call. Walton was not able to take advantage of this, as Cummins missed a 41-yarder as time expired. The half ended with the score tied, 7-7.   

Neither team was able to score for the rest of regulation as both defenses held their ground. Roswell had an opportunity inside the red zone in the 4th quarter, but the Raiders forced a turnover on downs. “We got a little stagnant there in the middle but moved the ball still with some consistency,” Coach Kemper said in an interview with North Fulton. Walton’s defense forced two turnovers on downs to take control of the turnover battle, 2-1. Charlie Pollock (12) kept a cool head midway through the 4th quarter, turning a broken punt attempt into an advantageous position for Walton’s defense, pinning Roswell inside their 15. As for Roswell’s defense, junior Evan Plunkett made a couple of big plays down the stretch, batting away Roszman’s screen pass attempt and breaking up a would-be touchdown on third down in the waning moments of regulation.

Rajath Prabhakar
Regulation ended with the score tied, 7-7

In overtime, Walton won the coin toss and elected to give Roswell the ball. This decision proved costly for the visitors. Marquis Willis (11) broke off a 23-yard run on second down, putting the Hornets inside the Raider 5. Ryan Hill (10) found the endzone the very next play for the go-ahead touchdown. Brian Najar’s PAT soared through the uprights, putting Roswell up 14-7. Evan Plunkett made another big play, sacking Zak Roszman for a loss of 5 on second down. The latter’s scramble for 5 yards brought up a pivotal 4th down. This time, however, Kenny Djaha would not be able to save the Raiders, as he dropped the screen pass from Roszman, sealing the victory for Roswell. 


“Now we’re going to take care of our business, [Walton] can hopefully take care of business, beat Cherokee, and we’ll both be hosting in the first round,” said Kemper in the same interview. 


With the victory, the Hornets move to the top of the Region 4 standings, and Walton drops to 3rd. This game was also the first time Roswell won a game decided by 7 points or less. Up next, Coach Kemper’s team travels to Woodstock to take on the Wolverines (1 November, 7:30 pm), who sit at 5th in the division.