Hunter Atkinson, West Hall: Finished with a season-high nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown in a loss against Chestatee.
Jay Gaudlock, Gainesville: Senior hauled in six catches for 65 yards and a third-quarter touchdown.
Deshaun Watson, Gainesville: Passed for 217 yards on 25 completions and ran for 75 on 19 carries.
Jeremiah Goss, Flowery Branch: Ran for 119 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 20 carries in a loss to West Forsyth.
Andrew Smith, North Hall: Senior recorded a game-high 97 yards rushing on 10 carries, while scoring two touchdowns for the Trojans.
Zac Little, North Hall: Finished with 93 yards rushing on just seven carries with two TDs, including a 38-yard score in the second quarter.
Raleigh Beougher, Riverside Military: Finished with eight catches for 120 yards and one rushing touchdown in a loss to Whitefield Academy.
Drake Hollander, Lakeview Academy: Led the Lions with 89 yards rushing on just nine carries in a loss to Hebron Christian Academy.
Tristen Jackson, Jefferson: Led the Dragons with 143 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown in a win over Jackson County.
Isaiah Blake, Jefferson: Finished with a season-high 76 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 15 carries.
Joshua Thomas, Buford: Led Buford with 133 yards rushing on 13 carries with two scores in a win over Gainesville.
Maurice Sutton, White County: Led the Warriors with 80 yards rushing and a touchdown in a win over Lumpkin County.
Drew Whitfield, Commerce: Led team with 82 yards rushing on 19 carries, including two touchdowns, in the Tigers’ first win of the season.
When junior AJ Sijiye went down with a season-ending knee injury during training camp, Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said the War Eagles weren’t going to have a star running back, but instead they would use a committee of running backs this season.
Luttrell figured he’d be able to rely on a multitude of players to get the job done, and he had hoped his seniors would rise to the occasion and carry the offense. Last Friday night, one of the seniors stepped up and rushed the War Eagles to a 15-14 win over West Hall.
Zac Cheshire finished with a career-high 118 yards rushing with both Chestatee touchdowns, including the score that set up the War Eagles’ game-winning two-point conversion with just over five minutes remaining.
He also played every snap on the defensive side of the football and on the War Eagles’ special teams. For his efforts, Cheshire has been named The Times’ Football Player of the Week.
“The O-line, they were definitely getting us a push,” Cheshire said, of his offensive success. “It was pretty easy to hit the holes.”
In an option-style offense, having a reliable group of running backs is a must in order to be successful. Having a running back that a coach can rely on to get the tough yards is even more critical.
Cheshire was able to get the tough yards while displaying his breakaway speed for the War Eagles.
“Even though he is small in stature, he packs a punch,” Luttrell said. “There is a lot to be said for just great effort. In our offense, a guy who is fearless and gives great effort can be successful.”
With the War Eagles trailing 7-0 late in the second quarter, Cheshire spun away from a pair of Spartan defenders and broke loose for a 25-yard touchdown, finally getting the first touchdown of the night for Chestatee.
After sharing his carries with senior Blake Buffington in the first half, Cheshire carried the load in the second half. The senior recorded nine of his 21 carries in the final two quarters, including his 7-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
“The whole backfield is a solid group of kids and anyone of us can do work, but I do feel as the season goes on that we will be getting better and better,” Cheshire said. “But I can definitely handle the load.”
Cheshire’s success against West Hall – and last week against North Hall – is an enjoyable sight for Luttrell. The War Eagles not only lost presumed starter Sijiye, but they were also looking to fill the productivity they lost from Quan Clark, who finished with a team-best 1,313 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior in 2012.
“(Cheshire) is one of those seniors that has been in our program for years,” Luttrell said Friday night.
“This is his senior year and this is his time. It is exciting to see him make plays. He is not the biggest guy, he is one of the smaller guys on the field, but he is a product of our program and his commitment and dedication to the program definitely showed.”
For Cheshire, he was more than willing to fill the void and become the War Eagles’ go-to rusher from the start.
“The coaches always talk about how one minute a guy can go down and you’re up,” Cheshire said. “I realized it was my chance to take advantage of the opportunity and make the best of it and step up to the plate.”
Chestatee is coming off an 8-3 mark last season, the program’s best record to date. Cheshire hopes to get the War Eagles to an even better record this season and help secure the school’s first-ever playoff victory.
He started helping the team in that direction on Friday night with his performance against West Hall.
“Last year we had a good season, so we are definitely trying to build a legacy here at Chestatee,” Cheshire said. “We got a slow start with the first week (a loss to North Hall) but the potential is as great as we can work.
“We come out here and we work our butts off and are going as hard as we can. We can make it to the top as long as we continue to execute.”
Chestatee returns to action Sept. 20, when it visits Eastside.