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Chestatee does it all in blasting Lumpkin, 42-14
War Eagles earn home playoff game, close in on region title
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Chestatee running back Zac Cheshire is tackled by Lumpkin County's Johnathan Gilreath after a large first-quarter gain Friday night at War Eagle Stadium. - photo by NAT GURLEY

War Eagles 42, Indians 14

Difference maker: Chestatee’s Blake Buffington made his presence felt on offense, defense and special teams. He scored a 14-yard touchdown run to give the War Eagles a 7-6 lead in the first quarter, then returned a kickoff 75 yards for another score. In the secondary, he pulled down three of Chestatee’s four interceptions.

Stat that matters: Of Lumpkin County’s 22 rushing attempts, 10 were stopped in the backfield. Chestatee’s run defense held the Indians to just 11 yards on 22 carries, while the War Eagles’ pass defense held Lumpkin County to just 14 completions and forced four interceptions.

Turning point: With his team up 21-14, Buffington showcased his speed with his monster kickoff return for a touchdown with just two minutes remaining in the first half. With a two score-lead in hand at halftime, Chestatee’s defense took over from there and secured the team’s seventh straight win.

Who’s next: Chestatee visits Monroe Area next Friday. Lumpkin County hosts Lanier.

Chestatee is peaking in all aspects of the game at just the right time.

The War Eagles scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams to cruise past Lumpkin County 42-14 on Friday and keep their Region 8-AAAA title hopes alive.

Chestatee (7-1, 6-0) put together its second-highest scoring game of the season while pulling down four interceptions, including one Zach Boerger took 90 yards for a touchdown.

Throw in Blake Buffington’s 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and the War Eagles may have assembled their most complete game of the season.

“At times, our offense clicked really well and looked good, but we have to get more consistent with our offense,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “Defense has to continue to play well and not give up the big play, and we have to continue to play great on special teams.”

The War Eagles, winners of six straight with guaranteed homefield advantage in the first round of the state playoffs, can clinch their first region title with another win next week.

Easier said than done. To win it all, they’ll have to take down unbeaten defending region champion Monroe Area, ranked fourth in Class AAAA and boasts a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, including quarterback and Auburn commit Stanton Truitt.

“I would say that they haven’t been tested this year,” Luttrell said. “Their quarterback and running back are as good as you’re going to see in high school football. They do a great job, but they’re the next team up and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Purple Hurricanes’ potent running game is certain to test Chestatee’s defense, which held Lumpkin County to just 11 yards on 22 carries and had 10 tackles for loss Friday night.

The War Eagles forced five total turnovers in the game.

“Our defense is looking forward to the challenge, and we’re looking forward to playing another big game,” Luttrell said. “There was some sudden change tonight with a couple of turnovers, and they stepped up and made some big plays.”

Buffington benefited most from Chestatee’s success in all three phases of the game, rushing for a 14-yard touchdown in the first quarter, returning a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter and catching a team-high three interceptions as a member of the secondary.

His scoring run helped erase a tough first quarter for the War Eagles, who allowed a pair of Lumpkin County (1-7, 1-4) field goals by Noah Cromer from 21 and 34 yards to open the game. With Buffington’s run just a minute before the first buzzer, Chestatee took a 7-6 lead.

Both of Buffington’s first-half interceptions set up War Eagle scoring drives, igniting a 21-point second quarter that included the first of Tray Bryant’s two touchdown runs and an 18-play, 98-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard diving score by quarterback Wyatt Burgess.

Buffington closed out his outstanding first half with his kickoff return score, putting Chestatee up 28-14 at halftime.

“It’s all about the offense and the team,” Buffington said. “It’s not about one individual effort.”

Lumpkin’s lone touchdown in the first half was a 73-yard touchdown heave from Indians quarterback Daniel McCrary to a wide open Johnathan Gilreath darting downfield with 2:20 remaining the half.

Gilreath finished the game with 170 yards on five catches. McCrary was 14 for 31 passing for 274 yards.

Chestatee scored on its first possession of the second half on a 20-yard run by Bryant, who rushed for 55 yards on eight carries.

Lumpkin saw a pair of scoring opportunities fall flat in the second half, including a first-and-goal situation on the War Eagles’ 1-yard line that ended with a turnover on downs on the 14 after Chestatee forced four tackles for loss.

Buffington killed the Indians’ next drive with his third interception, but Lumpkin County jumped on a fumble on the ensuing play and set up its offense on Chestatee’s 12-yard line with 8:25 left to play.

That’s where Boerger grabbed another McCrary pass for his 90-yard return for the score, sealing the War Eagles’ victory.

“It’s always fun to get a chance to give the offense the ball back,” Buffington said.

Burgess finished the game as Chestatee’s leading rusher with 101 yards on 18 carries. Zac Cheshire, the War Eagles’ leading rusher this season, rushed for 90 yards on 16 carries.