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West Hall earns 5th win, tops East Hall 27-7

POSTED: October 18, 2013 10:59 p.m.

THE BLITZ: East Hall at West Hall

High school football highlights from Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.

Jared Putnam/The Times

West Hall's Jay Crawford chases East Hall's Milton Whelchel on Friday at Spartan Field in Oakwood.

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Less than two years into the Tony Lotti era at West Hall, it’s safe to say the Spartans are running ahead of schedule.

With Friday night’s 27-7 win over visiting East Hall, the Spartans (5-2, 3-1 Region 7-AAA) shook off any lingering after effects from their loss to Buford two weeks ago and clinched their best record since 2008. They need just one more win to secure their first winning record since 2002.

The West Hall seniors are well aware of the opportunities before them.

“When Coach Lotti came in, he met with all of us and told us he had a three-year program,” senior tight end/defensive end Hunter Atkinson said. “We’re trying to make it a two-year program, because we want to win now. West Hall hasn’t had a winning record in I don’t know how long, but we’re doing great, and we’ve got the community behind us.

“We want state.”

A berth in the state playoffs is there for the taking as the Spartans enter the home stretch, but it won’t be easy, starting next week with a trip to North Hall to face a Trojans team coming off a surprising loss to White County.

West Hall finishes the season hosting White County on Nov. 1 and traveling to Dawson County on Nov. 8.

“This one huge for us,” Lotti said.

It was equally debilitating to East Hall’s dwinding playoff hopes. The Vikings (3-4, 0-4) have been on the short end of some close games this season, and were within striking distance in this one, trailing 14-7 at halftime.

That’s when West Hall’s Ty Statham put the Vikings in a 14-point hole when he bounced off a handful of would-be tacklers and returned the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards for a touchdown. The Vikings never got any closer.

“We had four guys get a hand on him, but we didn’t wrap up,” East Hall coach Bryan Gray said. “That put us in a deficit, but all the credit goes to coach Lotti and West Hall. He’s a great coach and they came out with a great game plan.”

That plan was centered around limiting the opportunities of East Hall’s dynamic offense.

West Hall opened the scoring on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Zach English to Hunter Atkinson late in the first quarter, and stretched the lead to 14-0 when Tyquan Statham broke loose on a 65-yard scoring run with 4:38 remaining in the half.

After recovering the ensuing onside kick, East Hall answered quickly on a 15-yard strike from Watson to Milton Whelchel.
But in the second half, West Hall never let the Vikings find their rhythm in the passing game. Using a multifaceted running attack, the Spartans applied mounting pressure by keeping the chains moving, the clock dwinding and the East Hall offense on the sidelines.

Six Spartan rushers combined for 251 rushing yards, led by Tyquan Statham’s 99 yards on nine carries.

The frustration they caused was evident, as East Hall failed to convert a first down until midway through the fourth quarter. After throwing for 151 yards in the first half, Watson finished 15-of-30 passing for 199 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“That’s a very, very strong offense at East Hall,” Lotti said. “We wanted to keep them on the sidelines as much as possible.”

Zach English helped balance the West Hall offense, completing 4 of 7 passes, all to Hunter Atkinson, for 83 yards and two scores. Included among those was the backbreaker, a 43-yard touchdown with 9:20 left in the fourth quarter that finished the scoring.

East Hall returns to action next week when it hosts Banks County.


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