St. Pius X 40, Washington County 35

St. Pius X head coach Paul Standard may be known as a conservative football coach, but his Golden Lions wouldn’t have beaten Washington County 40-35 Friday night if he didn’t open it up a little in the state AAA quarterfinals.

SPX recovered its own onside kick to begin the game, the run-oriented Lions threw the ball better than they ran it on the way to a 27-21 halftime lead, and three huge fourth-down conversions carried the DeKalb County Catholic high school to the state semifinals for the fourth time. The Lions will play host to North Hall after winning a coin toss Saturday morning to determine the site.

The Lions were led by junior wingback Branden Mitchell’s 164 rushing yards and two receptions for 42 yards and a score.

It took everything that SPX (11-2) had to overcome Washington County’s 14-3 first-quarter lead, and WaCo running back Melvin Hill. He rushed 16 times for 218 yards and three touchdowns for the Golden Hawks (11-2). Each team had three turnovers.

Senior fullback Ryan Braswell entered the game with 1,359 yards and 25 touchdowns for SPX and he finished with three touchdowns Friday, but he was a decoy much of the first half when he rushed five times for 8 yards.

Junior Kevin O’Toole recovered the onside kick at the outset. That led to a 43-yard field goal by junior Thomas O’Leary, who closed the first half with a 44-yarder with seven seconds left.

In between his two game-clinching kicks was some wild football.

Washington County took a 14-3 lead just minutes after O’Leary’s first field goal.

Hill raced 54 yards around right end on the Hawks’ third play, and then after SPX lost the ball on a pitch by quarterback Jack Spear, Washington County needed just three plays before senior quarterback William Walker passed 6 yards to D.J. Sanders for another score.

Four plays after that, the Lions faced fourth-and-1 (or less) at their own 28-yard line. Standard called timeout. In week eight at Woodward Academy, Braswell was stuffed in an eerily similar situation, and the War Eagles went on to upset the Lions and temporarily knock SPX out of first place in Region 6-AAA.

Guess what? Braswell behind left guard for 2 yards.

“It was the same spot we were in against Woodward Academy, and that’s still the only time in I can’t remember how long we hadn’t got less than a yard,” Standard said. “If we can’t get a yard or less, then we’re not going to be very good.

“Now, if the score was tied or something would I have done that? Probably not. But it was 14-3, and they [Washington County] had the juices flowing. We had to keep the ball. We do that play I can’t tell you how many times every day in practice.”

Soon, it was Spear’s turn.

The Golden Lions went into the game having rushed for 3,764 yards and 49 touchdowns while passing for 621 and five scores.

Spear a few plays later found Mitchell wide open for a 22-yard touchdown.

Not long after junior linebacker Daniel Crochet intercepted Walker on the first play of the second quarter to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Braswell, Hill countered with a 32-yard run for a score.

SPX came right back when Spear hit Ruffin on a crossing pattern for a 57-yard touchdown with 1:47 left in the first half. The Lions led 24-21.

Friday, Spear was 4-for-8 for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the first half while the Lions rushed for just 74 yards.

“Those pass plays are the same pass plays we work every single day in practice,” Standard said. “I know people don’t think we work the pass.”

Ruffin intercepted Walker moments later to set up O’Leary’s second field goal.

Each team scored on its first possession of the second half, which was sloppy as Washington County lost a fumble and SPX lost one in addition to an interception.

Also, the Hawks were trailing 34-28 in the fourth quarter when they reached four-and-goal at the SPX 7 only to have a snap sail over Walker’s head for a 19-yard loss and change of possession.

Mitchell went 73 yards on the next play before Braswell scored his third touchdown from 1 yard for a 40-28 lead.

The Hawks weren’t finished. Walker’s 8-yard TD pass to D.T. Latimer with 3:31 left in the game pulled the Hawks within 40-35. Walker completed 8-of-11 passes for 83 yards and rushed for 64 on 11 carries.

Crochet, however, recovered an onside kick. That was the third recovered by the Golden Lions – one of their own and two by Washington County.

SPX ran out the clock from there, the key coming on fourth-and-1 from the Washington County 40 with 1:33 when the Hawks jumped offsides. That was the third fourth down converted by the Lions in as many tries, and the Hawks were 3-for-5 on fourth downs.

The Lions rushed for 189 yards in the second half, when Hill intercepted Spear’s only pass attempt.

SPX out-gained Washington County 371-368 to return to the state semifinals for the first time since losing there to eventual state champion Northside-Warner Robins in 2006.

The Lions were also state runners-up in 1965, and won the state in ‘68.

Washington County — 14 7 7 7 – 35
St. Pius X – 10 17 7 6 – 40

SPX – Thomas O’Leary 43 field goal
WC – Melvin Hill 54 run (J.W. May kick)
WC – D.J. Sanders 6 pass from William Walker (May kick)
SPX – Branden Mitchell 22 pass from Jack Spear (O’Leary kick)
SPX – Ryan Braswell 3 run (O’Leary kick)
WC – Hill 32 run (May kick)
SPX – Nick Ruffin 57 pass from Spear (O’Leary kick)
SPX – O’Leary 44 FG
SPX – Braswell 3 run (O’Leary kick)
WC – Hill 32 run (May kick)
SPX – Braswell 1 run (run failed)
WC – D.T. Latimer 8 pass from Walker (May kick)

48 comments Add your comment


November 30th, 2012
11:15 pm

congrats to Waco on a well played game, your back and QB both had a whale of a game.

I hope the AJC picks us as underdogs to North Hall as well!


November 30th, 2012
11:22 pm

I wonder where all the Waco folks are at now. Now too much trash to talk now, huh? Weird how that works.

Matt Winkeljohn

November 30th, 2012
11:30 pm

I reckon they’re driving home, actually.

Bogus Bill

November 30th, 2012
11:35 pm

It’s “Golden Lions” and “Golden Hawks,” not just “Lions” and “Hawks.” It’s an “onside kick,” not “on-sides.” And it’s “clinching,” not “clenching.” “Clenching is what you do with your teeth.

Where did this guy learn to write, the so-called “University” of Georgia?


November 30th, 2012
11:36 pm


When will we find out who will be hosting the game? And if Pius wins the toss; is our stadium large enough to host a semi-final game?


November 30th, 2012
11:38 pm

Why are you being a ‘tool’?


November 30th, 2012
11:39 pm

What a game! Branden Mitchell had a huge game! He gets better every week. Excellent play calling by Coach Standard. We made the right adjustments on defense in the second half – making WACO eat up six minutes to get their final TD was absolutely huge. That was fun, WACO! Let’s do it again next year.


November 30th, 2012
11:41 pm

Slow night for you, Bill?


November 30th, 2012
11:42 pm

The coin toss is Sunday morning – should be posted on Facebook pretty quickly after that.

Seen a Few

November 30th, 2012
11:56 pm

Waco has a really good team and coaches. Congrats to all! Met some really nice folks from Sandersville. I did not get a chance to meet the “Son of Waco” though. I will say this…if the coaches for Washington County find out who you are, they should collectively ban you from the Internet. You have no idea how much you hurt your team and community. I will predict this…you will post some diatribe that says that either there was cheating on behalf of the Cartersville area refs or you will concoct a story on how you all really won the game. Find something to help your disposition.


December 1st, 2012
12:03 am

It was 2006 when Pius last made it to the semi’s.

Matt Winkeljohn

December 1st, 2012
12:10 am

Bill, you’re welcome to jump into the deadline writing business.

I’ll skip on the Goldens after the first reference to each team’s mascot much as I will use SPX frequently after first reference, much as writers every used Jackets after the first reference to Yellow Jackets, and Blazers rather than Trailblazers and T-Wolves rather than Timberwolves and Reds rather than Redlegs and ‘Canes rather than Hurricanes and ‘Noles rather than Seminoles.

Thank you for the counsel, though.

I made the necessary corrections and skipped the others.

Big Fan

December 1st, 2012
12:15 am

Bogus Bill. Come on man


December 1st, 2012
12:22 am

Bogus Bill-speaking of a tool…


December 1st, 2012
12:40 am

Bogus Bill has obviously never experienced writing on a deadline after a football game. I would suggest he do it next week, but his team is no longer in the playoffs… Lol, but seriously, come on…


December 1st, 2012
12:56 am

MWj a GREAT night for the LIONS I want to hear from Son of WACO and WA parent and 20-14. I guess they will be watching Basket Ball while we will be moving forward . Thank you for your EXCELLENT recaps I feel like I am still on the field.. GO LIONS Lets win the coin toss


December 1st, 2012
12:57 am

Bogus Billy Boy must have gone to Marist or Woodward……….. GO LIONS

Son of Waco

December 1st, 2012
1:19 am

Why would i blame the refs for this loss???? I mean SPX survive the wave Waco brings in the first quarter against every team and from then on SPX out coached our coaches…SPX got my respect and i hope your coach is willing to add us on the regular season schedule in the near future…

Seen a few…The reason i don’t go out looking to make new friend is because people can’t take opinions..I get on here and voice my opinion and folks take it as me being disrespectful…If your team or Fans of the team prove me wrong i am man enough that i will come on here admit it….Also please let me know the facts on what i did beyond state facts i get from information i look up that hurt my team…..


December 1st, 2012
1:31 am

SOW – your guys played a tough game – I hope we do get do see you guys again soon. Did you get some of that gumbo?

It’s all just good clean trash talking ; )
Let’s do it again soon.


December 1st, 2012
1:35 am

Son of Waco…. You got my respect by showing up on here and taking it like a man…… I did tell you we run like no team has run before and we can pass if we need to. Your team was AWESOME and I hate we met them so early. Best game I have been to in a long time and you have nothing to hang your head for . We saw such a great nail biting game both teams deserved to move on. I will always remember WACO and hope we don’t see them soon unless it is next years Championship game….. Go Lions

Matt Winkeljohn

December 1st, 2012
2:13 am

Everybody owes Son of Waco respect. Every SPX fan owes WaCo respect. That was a hell of a football game.

It’s a tough deal in his situation, not unlike what SPX fans endured with that Woodward Academy loss.

So everybody behave in your comments.

A lot of times when you get deep in the state playoffs, a game comes down to a break or two, or whomever has the most and/or makes the most of them.

There were a lot of breaks in this one (three turnovers by each team being obvious).

If you want to boil it down, I’d look at it like this — especially since SPX only out-gained WaCo by a mere 371-368 . . .

The onside kick to start the game was large. At that point, SPX coach Paul Standard is figuring there’s a good chance WaCo is going to move the ball that night because, well, he’s seen the tape. That means he needs to steal some points. He hopes for turnovers (takeaways), but can’t count on them. So he decides to try and force a sudden change.

It worked. SPX only got a field goal out of that, but when you combine that with the field goal the Lions got with 0:07 left in the first half — that’s six points? The winning margin was five points. And the second field came after an interception by Nick Ruffin with just more than a minute left in the first half.

Knowing that SPX was going to get the ball first in the second half (barring an onside or a fumble), WaCo took that possession trailing 24-21 with about 1:27 or so left in the first half and — if memory serves — all three timeouts. Given the way the Hawks were moving the ball (other than Walker’s earlier pick), there was every reason to believe that WaCo could move into field goal range, or perhaps score a TD before halftime.

But Walker was flushed from the pocket, and under heavy duress — but not as heavy as when Quincy Nieporte was about to blast him just prior to his first INT — he threw one up and Ruffin snatched it.

So, there are just two of the many breaks tonight: the onside kick and the second pick by SPX.

There are lucky breaks, and there are breaks you make. SPX made both those breaks — by not only opting to try the onside kick but recovering it, and then by forcing the INT with great pressure.

Similarly, while WaCo recovered that SPX fumble in the first half and soon scored a TD, that was a capitalization.

The Hawks, though, didn’t capitalize on the two SPX turnovers in the second half.

After they sacked Jack Spear and recovered his fumble (a serve lost by SPX), WaCo fumbled the ball back away on the next play. That’s a wasted break by WaCo. In tennis terms, a serve lost.

After Spear’s int a few minutes later, WaCo drove to the 4th-and-goal at the SPX 7. The snap went over Walker’s head. Another serve lost for WaCo.

So, three takeaways converted into just 7 points on the night for WaCo.

SPX converted WaCo’s three turnovers into 10 points (all off the two first-half interceptions) and converted the onside kick into three more.

That’s 13-7 in points made off breaks, a margin of six. SPX won by five.

I guess if you wanted to you could add this with an asterisk: when the ball was snapped over Walker’s head on fourth-and-goal from the 7 in the fourth quarter (which came, by the way, after they’d intercepted Spear — a wasted break), SPX converted that into 7 points. Mitchell went 73 yards on the next snap on the most breath-taking play of the night to set up Braswell’s 1-yard TD run.

That doesn’t fit my criteria, though, for breaks made. That’s more like a break given kinda like the WaCo fumble in the third quarter on the muffed exchange.


December 1st, 2012
4:40 am

No need to hate on the grammAr Nazi. I just hope you spend more time filling out your next job application than you did writing this story because I’m not sure deadline application will be a good excuse. All kidding and advice aside though, Pius played a great game. Still not as good as the come from behind overtime win against Thomas County Central game back in 2006, but definitely a close second. I hope that North Hall got all the scoring out of their system tonight and feels content not doing much next week. I really want to see a Pius/Buford showdown in the dome.


December 1st, 2012
8:40 am

Just want to add that I was very impressed with both teams last night, and fans. Waco has a great team, and fabulous fans…very enthusiastic and supportive. Lots of kudos to golden lions for coming back after being down 14-3.. Great play on both sides…very fun game… Either team could’ve had the w.


December 1st, 2012
8:40 am

And thanks to mw for write-ups…much appreciated!!

SPX Alum

December 1st, 2012
8:42 am

Great game last night. I lost my voice for the first time this season.

Washington County has some very talented players but to me it looked like the better coached team won the game – SPX. I paid close attention to Wash Co coaches and it seemed like they were continuously sending in last second substitutions. Also not sure what they were doing with their timeout management. Before the 4th down and goal play it just seemed very rushed and you could tell a mistake was about to happen. In a close game like this the better organized team is going to win and that is what happened. Don’t get me wrong Wash County is a great team and could have won that game if 3 – 4 plays went their way instead of Pius.

Pius stuck to their guns down 14-3 and took a long drive down the field and put it in the endzone. Proud of our team and hopefully we win this bogus coin flip nonsense to host the Semi-Final game.

Congratulations on a great season Wash County.

Big Fan

December 1st, 2012
8:57 am

Let me be specific here. How do you hurt your team? By posting stuff like this below. It may be your opinion but it is very incendiary (• a person who stirs up conflict.) It just might be used to your boys’ detriment as locker room material. Go ahead and do that if you want. I’m just answering your question as to how you may hurt your team. By the way, you did the same lame stuff against Thomson before and after the game and no one else is out there representing Washington County like you. I’m done with you…By the way, you spoke many times about the stronger teams being from your neck of the woods i.e. below the Atlanta line. Well, Buford, North Hall, SPX and Cartersville.

Son of Waco
November 23rd, 2012
10:58 pm
Man i am so ready to play this game i might set up a tent at St. Pius school lol……..If Waco qb get off like hart co. did rushing wise, we will blow out St. Pius….Also if Waco get 355 yards of offense, we will have the points to show for it too……I don’t see a real pass rusher on SPX defense, so we will stretch SPX defense to its limit and take advantage of their players in the open field….Also i saw Hart Co. have break away runs and not finish them with touchdowns …I promise SPX fans we will not have them same problems…. If any of our skill players get behind SPX defense they will not be caught…
SPX you will play your last playoff game next week…..This game will be over at half time…Waco will dominate you!!!!!!
That Peach co vs Waco game will be epic……

Neutral observer

December 1st, 2012
8:59 am

How big was that play that #8 made when he ran down the WACO rb in the 4th quarte?. I think he had another big time play in the ensuing 3 plays right that eventually led to the snap over the head previously discussed. Kudos to that young man. I saw a lot of big runs, even pass and catches, from the St. Pius club but I think that play might have been as big as any. Glad I chose this random game this week. Hope I am as lucky next week.

No Hall Pass Here

December 1st, 2012
9:13 am

The North Hall Trojans have improved from 4-6 to 11-2 and thumped a Woodward team that beat St. Pius. The Brickyard is not a place St. Pius wants to play right now. No bragging going on here the record speaks for its self !

Matt Winkeljohn

December 1st, 2012
9:17 am

Neutral, the play you’re talking about . . . shortly after the interception, Hill swept right and looked like he was going to score from the 50. Junior Nick Glass caught him at the 15. Four plays later, the bad snap. Big play, indeed.

WA Parent

December 1st, 2012
9:30 am

Congrats to Pius. Interesting that Standard still mentions the 4th and 1 against us. It should be a good game against North Hall; just don’t punch your tickets to the Dome yet. Those country boys are hungry!

Seen a Few

December 1st, 2012
9:33 am

No Hall Pass…you are right brother. Great NH team you have there and congrats. We look forward to hosting y’all Friday night. Safe travels and we have a lot of work in front of us to keep up with NH.


December 1st, 2012
10:06 am

Neutral, good observation on Nick Glass! He is a very talented kid that has been limited by injuries much of the season. I was thrilled to see that Mr. Glass looking 100% last night. On that same drive (I think) he made a good play to cut off the WACO QB on a speed sweep around the left side.


December 1st, 2012
10:09 am

Congrats to SPX — big win!! Good luck next Friday.


December 1st, 2012
10:21 am

Glass had a monster game, but so did every last kid on Pius. Great team effort, and great coaching. The guts it took to call going for it on 4th and 1 from your own 30 or so was astounding. And then the kids executed. I truly think that debacle against Woodward where we turned it over so much and failed on that 4th and 1 from our own 29 is paying dividends here in the playoffs. the boys learned what it takes to make those plays. Looking forward to North Hall, should be a great matchup and excited that we host it after winning the coin flip this morning. Let’s go, Lions!

real state

December 1st, 2012
10:34 am

I have to agree with Big Fan that his trash talking does have impact from a negative stand point. I did notice on his comments from 11/23 he kept using the word “I”…wow no I in team!
SOW made several comments about WACO team doing this and that. And how he was ready to play the game. I thought it was high school kids playing not adults! lol Well, WACO did all that and we still stopped them when needed. SPX does not have one stud and SPX M O is about team not
just one player.
SOW…guess what?? What is awesome about SPX and the tradition… we have three SPX alumnus head coaches in the Semi’s next Friday!!! How about that?? Our head coach, Norcross head coach, and Ware County down by you! It goes to show that SPX is not there by accident, it is indicative of the legacy that George B. Maloof started in 1958 and we are back…for good! Committment of the middle school program, great parents, awesome principal and great conditioning summer workouts.
SOW chill out. you have some athlete’s let the kids play, coaches coach and fans cheer and support their team!


December 1st, 2012
10:48 am

Look Son Of Waco took his lumps and he was man enough to show up on here last night /early AM. Yes he did trash talk and we won but he showed up as did his team.. I am so happy not to have to face that bunch till next year.. GO LIONS


December 1st, 2012
10:50 am

Tails never Fails Cant wait till friday @ George B Maloof Stadium………

Carol Frei

December 1st, 2012
12:07 pm

Jack Spear’s grandparents, uncle and aunt, Cousins were watching from Columbia Maryland and cheering for St Pius!


December 1st, 2012
12:48 pm

Then you know we’re gonna need you and the family watching again this Friday, Carol! North Hall is a tough team and we’ll need all the luck we can get. Better yet, it’s not that far a drive from Maryland, is it?


December 1st, 2012
12:53 pm

By the way, Son of Waco, I met a few Waco fans last night, mabye you among them, and they were all good people. Happy to host classy fans who support their club in numbers. We could play that game 10 more times and we’d probably each win 5. Kudos again to your club and hope to meet you again next year in the playoffs!

Saint Teresa

December 1st, 2012
1:00 pm

Matt, thanks for the great article on the game, especially considering the deadline! So proud of our Golden Lions and I applaud the incredible talent and heart of the Washington County team. They left nothing on that field. It was an unbelievable game and the fans of Washington County have nothing to hang their heads about! I met several of their fans on the sideline, they were incredibly nice and gracious and they love their team just as much as Pius fans love their Golden Lions. St. Pius X is thrilled to be hosting North Hall this Friday at George B. Maloof Stadium. Hope to see you there!

Son of Waco

December 1st, 2012
1:06 pm

SPX Alum…That’s also what i saw and always see when we are in tight games…For some reason our coaching staff gets nervous and can’t coach the kids up….We had like 3 firsts in last night game….Our first on-side kick in a game to surprise a team, which was crazy……Our first snap over our Qb head and our Qb and Rb fumble the speed sweep….SPX kicker was that X factor we couldn’t overcome……

BIG FAN…We had the points to show for the yards…Most of the night when our skill players got behind SPX defense it turn into TD’s…..Early on in the game it looked like it was going to be a blow out but on that early 4th and 1 inside their own territory for them to go for it gave them players an extra boost of swag they used the rest of the game….I’ve seen plenty teams in that same position early punt and we make it a 3 score lead and they never can make them points up….

Also BIG FAN if you took the time to seek out the last post how would you avoid the one that the peach co fan made…I just seen that the same hate he was getting for that statement i was getting for voicing my opinion..So to be funny i stole his post and said let me give the SPX fans who just want to be negative a reason to be that way….

Real State..When folks say “There is no I in team”I love the come back of “But theirs one in WIN” lol…….I say “I” because i take ownership of my opinion and don’t want to confuse my opinion with my team or the other Waco fans….

Golden Lion

December 1st, 2012
1:13 pm

Its a great day to be a GOLDEN LION!!! Sorry SOW. But the best team won last night!!! Great to be a part of the SPX FAMILY. Go Lions


December 1st, 2012
1:54 pm

i would like to know if those were really onside kicks or simply “pouch” kicks to keep the ball out of the hands of the deep returner. they certainly weren’t the traditional onside kick so it led me to believe they were willing to just let WaCo start at the 35 yard line rather than try and deal with the speed of their kick returner.


December 1st, 2012
2:55 pm

The pooch kick is both: it negates the threat of the track star return man and it gives opportunity for a turnover. The opposing team has to have a hands person up to handle it and – if they have watched the films – they have to know that the best approach is to fair catch the ball. As soon as I saw the WACO kick return alignment with the big hole in the middle I guessed we would pooch kick.

SOW – you are so right about the early 4th and 1 call – that was a critical point early in the game in several ways. Hats off to Coach Standard on that call. I’m guessing that is a moment our boys will remember for a long long time.


December 1st, 2012
3:15 pm

SOW, Glad to see you step up in your first Post. We will keep your seat marked for the NH game and based on your first post, I suspect you will probably have a good time interacting with the SPX Fans. Your opinions are just that, however the vitriol you often use combined with stating opinion as fact for both teams are factors which cause much of the angst which has been targeted at you. Regarding your post above, SPX created those “firsts” for a Truly stong WACO team. An intangible we warned you about pre-game. Best wishes and your seat is in front of the Concession stand on 50 4 rows down and marked SOW. 40-35 is one hell of a football game . Hats off to the WACO fans and congrats to the team NH welcome to the jungle! Please tell everyone to take the shuttle and do not drive to SPX! :) :)

Roy D. Mercer

December 1st, 2012
6:02 pm

Boy from Sandersville..”Most of the night when our skill players got behind SPX defense it turn into TD’s”. Seriously? What a profound statement. It’s like, “Everytime my elbow bends, my mouth opens”!

Old Golden Lion

December 2nd, 2012
1:57 pm

@waco and @ Pius fans I think the pump up video has more to do with it. When I see them I want to play again. Great game both sides played and gave it all they had. I am just happy the Waco Qb didnt run more he is talented.