Just two weeks after beating the Trojans 38-0 on the same field in the regular season, the Bulldogs came up short in the conference championship game, falling 20-9.
The season ends with two straight losses after the Bulldogs started 7-0. They were looking for their first ever trip to the league championship game, which will now be played between the Alabama Trojans and the Georgia Canes this Saturday in Atlanta. (The Canes defeated the Bulldogs 30-7 in their final game of the regular season for the other loss.)
“I thought from games three to seven this year we played extremely well, but these last two weeks it just wasn’t there,” said North Georgia head coach Mark Bramblett. “We couldn’t get any rhythm going on offense tonight, and we didn’t adjust well to what they were doing. It’s hard to beat a team three times in the same season.”
After falling behind 7-0 in the first quarter, the Bulldogs answered in the second with a TD run by Clarence Goines from inside the 10-yard line to pull back within one at 7-6 after the extra point was missed.
The teams then went back and forth for the next quarter and a half before the Bulldogs took the lead on a field goal by kicker Steven Walters to go ahead 9-7.
The Bulldogs looked to have the momentum, but couldn’t close it out, giving up two fourth-quarter touchdowns to the Trojans.
One of the final two TDs was set up by what looked to be a missed call late in the third quarter. On the ensuing kickoff after the Bulldogs went ahead 9-7, it appeared that the Trojans returner mishandled the ball of his chest and out of bounds at his own five-yard line. Instead, the official ruled that the kick went out of bounds on its own resulting in a penalty and the ball being placed at the Trojans’ 40. After a 15-yard penalty for arguing the call, the Trojans set up for the drive at the Bulldogs’ 45-yard line.
“There were some rules misapplied, but their were some rules misapplied the other way tonight too,” said Bramblett. “We can’t focus on that, though. The Trojans came in ready to play and were really physical as always.”
Though the season didn’t end the way Bramblett and the Bulldogs would’ve wanted, he said there were still a lot of things to be happy about looking back on it.
“I thought we played well this year, but injuries took a toll on us and we had guys playing out of position some,” said Bramblett. “We had guys step up all year, and we stayed with the same guys unlike other teams which go out and try to sign people to fill holes during the year. We stay with the same guys because we believe in them, and they believe in us.”
The season ends with a 7-2 record for the Bulldogs and a regular season conference championship.