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OAKWOOD — Special teams and defense — tried and true ingredients to winning football. Chestatee proved the old adage right again Friday with a tough 42-21 victory over West Hall.
The War Eagles (1-1) turned two fumbles and a blocked punt into 21 points in a game that went back and forth more than the pendulum on your grandfather clock.
Chestatee led 14-0 at the half and 28-0 in the third quarter before West Hall (0-2) ran off 21 straight points to draw within a touchdown. The War Eagles answered back with 14 consecutive points of their own in a 3:11 span to put away the Spartans.
“For five or six minutes things just went crazy for us,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “That’s the best way I can say it. West Hall really got on a roll. But I’m proud of our guys for how the responded, got their composure back and handled some adversity. A lesser team would have stepped back and let things snowball. But our guys stepped up and got it back going the right way.”
It certainly started out in the right way for Chestatee. Cody Humphries returned a fumble 23 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and Jordan Browning’s blocked punt on West Hall’s next drive set up Jordan Degraff’s 10-yard scoring run.
That appeared to be all the War Eagles needed offensively. Chestatee threw in periodic no-huddle looks that began to wear down the Spartans as evidenced on the War Eagles’ touchdown drive. Degraff and Quan Clark each had long runs on a five-play, 48-yard drive in the latter part of the second quarter.
“We had really good practices all week,” said Humphries, a junior lineman. “We did the exact same thing tonight we did in practice and put it on them right away. Those sorts of plays (fumble recoveries) really set a really high tempo for us and that’s what we look for. It was a huge momentum boost.”
Chestatee limited West Hall to 29 total yards in the first half. The big defensive plays, of course, were the fumble return and blocked punt.
“Our plan is to always move the ball as quickly as possible,” said Clark, a senior who rushed for 114 yards on 19 carries. “We can tire a lot of teams out when we go no-huddle.”
Brandon Thompson scored two times in the third quarter to put the War Eagles up 28-0 before the floodgates opened again ... this time for West Hall.
Zach English threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to senior Chase Jarrard, and the junior quarterback scored on a 3-yard run after West Hall recovered a Chestatee fumble deep in its own territory.
The Spartans pinned Chestatee against its own goal line on the War Eagles’ next possession and recorded a safety via a tackle in the end zone. Isiah Rowe scored on a 12-yard run on the ensuing drive to draw West Hall within a touchdown.
“Everything we’re focused on is getting back to the original West Hall. We made mistakes that good teams are able to capitalize on. But we didn’t quit. I think we scared some people,” said Spartans’ first-year coach Tony Lotti.
“I think they figured that we would go ahead and pack up and head to the field house. But that’s not what we’re about any more. I’ve got kids who are competitors, and sometimes competitors try to do too much or they try to force things. So they have to learn how to play with that.
"I have kids now that won’t quit and I’m proud of them for that."
Chestatee came back with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Degraff to Tony Fayson after the War Eagles recovered a fumble on the kickoff. Clark added a 1-yard run later in the period.
Fayson’s catch was extremely satisfying. Friday marked his second game after tearing his anterior cruciate knee ligament in the fourth game of 2011.
“The beginning was exactly how we planned it: 28-0,” said Degraff, a senior. “Everyone was clicking. The defense shut them down and the offense worked. Then we had some adversity with a fumble and then a safety. Coach (Luttrell) got us together and we got a talk. We were able to get back up and did what we do best.”
West Hall next plays host to Lumpkin County at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Chestatee gets a week off before playing host to Eastside at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21.