The Blitz, complete high school coverage
Chestatee senior Kelly Arthur said he knew not to expect too many reps as a wide receiver Friday night, so he vowed to make his mark on defense.
With one final pass break-up as the game clock expired, Arthur and the Chestatee defense secured a 51-0 win over Walnut Grove at War Eagle Stadium in Gainesville, the War Eagles’ first shutout since 2009.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get many reps on offense, so coach said if you can’t get it on offense, get it on defense,” said Arthur, who was also in the homecoming court at halftime. “This game was a step forward; it was a whole game effort.”
Chestatee quarterback Jordan Degraff, who had 73 yards rushing and a touchdown and was 3 for 5 passing for 64 yards — not to mention reps at defensive back in the second half — was pleased to see the defense, which held Walnut Grove to 162 total yards, take center stage.
“This was definitely a good night for the defense,” he said.
And it was a good night on the whole for a Chestatee team (5-1, 3-0) that stayed perfect in the region after not getting a region win the last two years. The War Eagles remain tied with Monroe Area (6-0, 3-0) for first place after the Purple Hurricanes beat Stephens County 27-12.
Degraff said that a lot has changed in a year to see such improvement.
“Everybody’s believing, and we’ve finally got the whole community behind us,” he said. “A lot’s changed around here, and its leading to more success.”
Friday night the changes were evident, as the team played what both players agreed was the most complete game of the year. Chestatee beat Walnut Grove (1-5, 0-3) on offense, defense and special teams as the War Eagles ran for 408 yards and six touchdowns (led by AJ Sijiye with 118 yards rushing, 47 receiving and a touchdown), defensive back Tommy McCormack recovered a Warriors fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, and kicker Jose Zamora nailed a 23-yard field goal.
After going into the half ahead 17-0, Chestatee scored 27 points in the third quarter to remove any doubt, starting with a 35-yard run by Quan Clark (six carries for 60 yards) to put Chestatee ahead 24-0 with 10:39 still remaining in the third quarter.
“I was proud offensively and defensively with how we started the third quarter,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “We had a great week of practice, and I’m not surprised that we played well tonight.”
War Eagles running back Tray Bryant (four carries for 96 yards) ran for two scores in the quarter, with the fumble recovery by McCormack sandwiched in between.
William Fayson added a 61-yard touchdown run for Chestatee in the fourth to account for the final total.
Walnut Grove quarterback Joey March led the visitors with 135 yards passing.
Chestatee didn’t start as quickly in the first half, but the defense held its own.
After the War Eagles held the warriors to a three-and-out to open the game, the offense went 61 yards on six plays for the first touchdown of the game, finished by a 37-yard run down the sideline by Degraff on third-and-9.
Chestatee’s next drive was stopped short when the War Eagles fumbled and Walnut Grove recovered. The Warriors moved as far as the Chestatee 22-yard line, but after a holding call on a fourth down attempt, Walnut Grove was forced into one of its four first-half punts.
Warriors punter Drew Merritt pinned Chestatee on its 1-yard line, but on just the third play of the drive Sijiye broke free for a 92-yard touchdown run to put Chestatee ahead 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Walnut Grove moved into Chestatee territory again on its next possession, but Clark picked off Warriors’ quarterback March in the end zone to end the threat.
Chestatee’s next drive fell apart after back-to-back 15-yard penalties that pushed the War Eagles out of Walnut Grove territory. But after a quick Warriors offensive series, Chestatee got the ball back at its own 39, with 51 seconds before the half.
After a 47-yard pass from Degraff to Sijiye on second down to get to the Walnut Grove 17, Chestatee used five more quick plays to set up a 23-yard field goal attempt by Zamora with four seconds remaining. Zamora’s kick from the right hashmark sailed just inside the right goal post for a 17-0 Chestatee lead at the half.
Sijiye led the offense in the first half with 113 yards rushing and a touchdown, along with 47 yards receiving. Degraff added 73 yards rushing and a score to go along with 3 of 5 passing for 64 yards.
March led the Warriors at the half with 86 yards on 5 for 12 passing. Walnut Grove managed just 26 yards rushing in the first half.
On homecoming night for Chestatee, the school recognized one of their own before the game, 2011 Chestatee graduate and Marine Lance Corporal Sean Adams, who was wounded in February in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb and subsequently awarded the Purple Heart by President Barack Obama. He remains an active duty Marine.
Both teams continue region play next Friday. Chestatee hosts Lanier in Gainesville, and Walnut Grove returns home for a county rivalry game against another region contender in Monroe Area in Loganville.