THOMASVILLE — Darian Daniels grabbed the belt, ran to the bench in front of the home stands and hoisted it high for all the Thomas County Central fans to see.
The belt, more suited for a WWE wrestling champion, is reserved for TCC players who come away with turnovers.
And Daniels couldn't have come up with a bigger one.
His interception near midfield sealed a 24-14 victory over Brooks County Friday night at the Jackets' Nest.
"I had to get it," Daniel said of his pick with less than a minute left in the game. "I knew my team needed a turnover, so I had to step up and get it."
Daniels' interception sealed the win after Quay Edwards cut down Brooks County's new-found momentum with a 46-yard touchdown scamper with 1:39 left. The Trojans had scored 14 unanswered points in the span of one minute and 59 seconds to cut TCC's lead to 17-14.
"I had to do it (score) after they got a little too excited," said Edwards, who also scored on a 1-yard plunge early in the first quarter. "All I saw, after I had stiff-armed one of their guys, was the orange pylon in the end zone. And I had to go."
Brooks had given itself new life with a pair of late scores after it appeared Thomas County Central's 17-point first-half lead would stand. Quarterback Nitavion Burrus tossed a 9-yard strike to Raquan Manning to trim the deficit to 17-7 after Tony Velasquez's extra point attempt.
Then after a TCC fumble, Burrus hit Devin Edwards on a 10-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 17-14 with 1:49 left.
But that's when Edwards broke Brooks County's back 10 seconds later on the Jackets' ensuing possession with his touchdown gallop.
"He was lightning in a bottle for us most of the night," said Thomas County Central coach Ashley Henderson. "But we had every opportunity to give that game away. We had our hands team out there and they stopped their onsides kick attempt twice to close the deal."
Early in the game, it seemed TCC was going to run Brooks County out of the stadium.
It took exactly 12 seconds for Thomas County Central's Tykeem Wallace to get the Yellow Jackets rolling when he found a small hole, broke free and scooted down the sidelines for an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
The offense piled on 10 more points before the first quarter was halfway over. After Wallace's score, the Jackets recovered a fumble on Brooks County's ensuing possession at the Trojan 21-yard line. The drive stalled and TCC settled for Caleb Clark's 34-yard field goal to grab a 10-0 lead at the 9:25 mark.
Then on the Jackets' next possession, Edwards dashed 73 yards to set up his 1-yard scoring plunge a play later. Clark's extra point attempt made it 17-0 with 7:16 left in the opening quarter.
The Jackets (4-1) kept Brooks County off the scoreboard midway through the third quarter. On fourth-and-1 from the TCC 3, they stopped the Trojans shy of the first down marker to turn the ball over on downs. It was a stand that could have won the Jackets the game.
With an open date next week and just one more game before region play begins against Warner Robins on Oct. 12, Henderson liked what he saw when TCC faced adversity.
But the soft pass that Daniels intercepted in the closing minutes had the team smiling. He won't take the belt, donated by Chad "Big Bank" Barfield, home. But his teammates did snap a few photos of him hoisting the prize.
"We've got all kind of bells and whistles for things they do," Henderson said. "But I'm a firm believer that if it excites the kids, the coaches can keep doing it."
No doubt Daniels was excited.
And so were a whole lot of TCC fans, who watched their team score perhaps their most impressive victory of the season.