PERRY, Ga. — The Region 4-4A championship game between the Baldwin Braves the Perry Panthers Friday was quite literally a game of inches.
Those inches, and a controversial call late, went Perry’s way as the Panthers (6-4) secured the region title and playoff No. 1 seed by beating the Braves (4-1) 23-20.
With the game tied 20-20 and less than two minutes left in the fourth, Baldwin ran an unsuccessful fake punt after some miscommunication and gave the Panthers good field position. The BHS defense kept Perry out of the end zone on the ensuing possession, so the host team lined up for a field goal. The kicked ball hit off an upright and was no good, according to Baldwin head coach Jesse Hicks, but that was not the ruling made on the field. Referees ultimately called the kick good and awarded Perry the three points it needed to win.
“I can take losing a football game if somebody beats me fair, but when it’s decided by a group of referees who made a very bad call, it’s hard to accept that,” Hicks said in a postgame phone interview. “My kids deserve better and the kids from Perry deserve better.”
The loss means the Braves will enter the GHSA Class 4A state playoffs as a No. 2 seed, meaning they will get to host in the first round.
Baldwin, who finished up a shortened regular season schedule due to COVID-19, had hoped for better, though.
“It’s just hurtful for my kids to play as well as they did and have the refs take the game from them,” said Hicks.
The Baldwin head coach added that his school will file a report with the Georgia High School Association come Monday, but he doesn’t expect the game outcome to be changed.
The Braves were dejected after losing in such heartbreaking fashion, but Hicks said it was his wife, Ebon Hicks, who provided a much-needed pep talk reminding the players and coaches they still have the playoffs to look forward to.
As of Friday night, it looked like Baldwin would host Region 1’s Thomas County Central to open the 2020 postseason. The Braves have made it at least into the second round each of the last three years.