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Chestatee overcomes sloppy start for 1st ever playoff win

War Eagles beats Grady 41-13, travel to Sandy Creek next week

POSTED: November 15, 2013 11:16 p.m.

THE BLITZ: Grady at Chestatee

High school football playoff highlights from Friday, Nov. 15, 2013: Grady at Chestatee.


Zac Cheshire scores for Chestatee in the first half of Friday's first-round Class AAAA state playoff game against Grady at War Eagle Stadium.

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Chestatee overcame a shaky opening quarter and ended up making history on Friday night at War Eagles Stadium.

After falling into an early two-touchdown deficit to Grady, the War Eagles found their form in the second quarter. They used a stingy defensive effort, to go along with a monstrous rushing performance from a pair of backs, to down the Grey Knights 41-13 and earn the school’s first-ever playoff victory.

“It does feel good,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “I’m just so proud of our players and our coaches. They worked hard for this. This just didn’t happen and I’m proud they were able to take the opportunity.”

Chestatee (9-3) will visit top-ranked Sandy Creek (10-0-1) next week in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.

“We talk a lot about believing in maroon and that means believing in each other and believe in the team, believe in the coaches and believe in the system,” Luttrell said, when asked about his team’s confidence. “And these guys believe. That’s what you’re seeing.”

Tray Bryant scored three rushing touchdowns on Friday night. Wyatt Burgess rushed for a score and threw for another and Zac Cheshire scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to lead a War Eagle offense that finished with 391 yards (346 rushing) on the night.

Things started badly for the War Eagles, though. They fumbled five times, losing two, on the first eight plays and turned the ball over on downs inside the red zone on the third possession in a rain-filled first quarter. 

“We were definitely a little nervous,” Bryant said, about the start. “It was a big game. We’ve all been in that situation before and calmed down and handled it.”

Once the rain stopped, the War Eagles found their form, with Bryant and Cheshire leading the charge on offense.

Bryant led all rushers with 155 yards on 17 carries to go along with his three scores. Cheshire finished with 140 yards rushing on 27 carries for Chestatee, which has now broken the 40-point mark four times this season.

Along with the offense calming down and starting to make plays in the second quarter, Chestatee’s defense found its form. 

After allowing 124 yards of total offense on the Grey Knights’ first two offensive possessions, the War Eagle defense came to life. It held Grady to just 70 total yards of offense across its final 11 offensive possessions, while forcing two second-half interceptions.

“The defense you can’t say enough about,” Luttrell said. “The defense, creating turnovers, three-and-outs, and putting the offense in good situations.”

In order to get a push up front on offense, Chestatee put eight players on the offensive line of scrimmage. The decision worked out well, as the War Eagle running backs had gaping holes to run through and the offense was able to move downfield at will.

Chestatee scored four touchdowns inside the final four minutes of the first half to build a 15-point halftime lead. 

Burgess slashed into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run to cap off a short 24-yard drive that was set up after Chestatee’s defense forced Grady to punt from deep in its own territory.

On the following possession, Burgess connected with tight end Khalil Cantrell for a 45-yard touchdown pass to give Chestatee a 14-13 lead. At that point, the momentum had shifted.

“We were really looking for an opportunity to hit that,” Luttrell said. “They were bringing so many guys up to stop the run and when you have DBs playing the option, you have chances to get play-action.”

Following a Grady three-and-out, the War Eagles needed only three plays to drive 30 yards for another score. This time, Bryant scored the first of his three touchdowns, giving Chestatee a 21-13 lead.

Logan Cates recovered a Grady fumble on the Grey Knights’ first ensuing offensive play and Bryant scored his second touchdown of the half just a few plays later. Bryant scored his final touchdown of the night midway through the fourth quarter, breaking into the end zone for a 2-yard run on a fourth-and-inches for the War Eagles.

Chestatee’s defense continued its dominating play in the second half, limiting Grady to just one first down across the final 24 minutes and forcing two interceptions.

Cates snagged the War Eagles’ first interception, but the offense stalled on downs and wasn’t able to take advantage.
Then in the fourth quarter, Blake Buffington, the team’s leader in interceptions this season, intercepted Grady quarterback Caylin Newton to set up Cheshire’s 12-yard touchdown run with 5:41 remaining in the game.


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