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Football: Indians, War Eagles make playoff push

Game of the Week

POSTED: November 6, 2007 5:05 a.m.
Going into Week 9 of the 2006 season, Lumpkin County had just suffered its worse loss of the season, a 53-0 rout by North Hall, and was hoping for a painless end to what would end up being a winless season.

Chesatee, the Indians opponent that week was, on the other hand, riding a three-game winning streak and ready for a run in the Class AAA state playoffs.

The outcome of the 2006 matchup? A 35-0 win by Chestatee.

When the War Eagles (6-2, 2-1) and Indians (5-3, 2-1) take the field tonight in Dahlonega for their 2007 Week 10 matchup, the motivation is decidedly different than last year.

Lumpkin County isn’t fighting for pride and Chestatee isn’t a lock for the postseason.

They are both fighting for an opportunity to represent Subregion 7A-AAA in the Class AAA state playoffs.

The Indians and War Eagles are in a three-way tie with White County (5-3, 2-1) for the second playoff spot behind North Hall.

"It’s been a much different year (for us), said Lumpkin County coach Tommy Jones. "I can’t say enough about our seniors, who easily could have quit after going 0-10, but who decided to hang in there and really bought in a lot to what we were talking about. I’ll be indebted to those guys forever."

While the Indians are basking in the glow of a possible run to the playoffs, Chesatee is kicking itself for allowing the playoff race to still be a race this late in the season.

"We have to play mistake-free football," said Chestatee coach Stan Lutrell. "The mistakes are why we’re fighting for our lives to get into the playoffs."

In its two losses, against Flowery Branch and White County, Chestatee amassed a total of 13 turnovers broken down into four interceptions and nine lost fumbles.

"We’ve been hard on ourselves (because of the two losses) but also pushed from the coaches," said Chestatee junior quarterback Ethan Souther. "It doesn’t take a lot to get us motivated."

The War Eagles are averaging 35 points per game while giving up 25.

The offense is led by senior running back Jo Jo Sweet, who, over the course of the season, has run for 1,143 yards and 15 touchdowns. Souther controls the passing game, having thrown for 666 yards and six touchdowns thus far.

"Chestatee is extremely difficult to prepare for," said Jones. "They run a split-back veer offense and you don’t see it a lot, Their quarterback is very fast and Jo Jo Sweet, the fullback, hits the holes and is extremely quick.

"Their defense, they like to pressure and if you are not mentally prepared they are going to take advantage of you."

Leading Chestatee’s pressure-packed defense is junior linebacker Chase Vasser, who has 113 tackles on the season, 35 for a loss, and 12 sacks.

"The only thing that matters to our football program right now is beating Lumpkin County," said Luttrell. "We just need to take care of business (tonight) in Dahlonega."

The Indians come into their Week 9 game, averaging 22 points per game thanks to a potent running game.

"I think Lumpkin is a very explosive offensive team," said Luttrell, "and our defense has one of the toughest challenges they’ve had since Gainesville."

Leading Lumpkin County in rushing are seniors Cameron and Ken Jackson who have run for a combined 1,312 yards and 17 touchdowns on 183 carries.

The Indians’ quarterback Daniel Abercrombie hasn’t just spent his time in the pocket, he has helped Lumpkin County’s rushing attack, running for 428 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries.

"They’ve got a lot of speed and they’re big and physical up front," said Luttrell, "and I think our defense is going to have to play one of its best games of the year for us to come away with a victory."

While both teams and their coaches are aware of the playoff implications that come with tonight’s game, neither are looking ahead.

"The morale (of the team) is obviously much different," said Jones regarding his team’s jaunt towards a winning season. "Guys are excited, practice is a lot easier. But by no means, though, do we think that we have arrived. They’ve (Chestatee) won some big games this year and we realize, without a shadow of a doubt, that we have our hands full."

For Luttrell and his War Eagles, the feeling is mutual.

"It’s a big game against a good football team. There’s a lot riding on it and I expect our boys to show up and play well," Luttrell said.



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