As assistant coaches, Flowery Branch’s Chris Griffin and West Hall’s Tony Lotti have seen their share of victories. But for the first on their register as head coaches, each had to wait a little longer than they would’ve liked.
Finally, Friday, after starting the season 0-2, both coached their way into the “W” column with pivotal wins.
It was especially important for Flowery Branch, which opened the season ranked in Class AAAAA’s top 10, but dropped out after a lopsided loss to second-ranked Northside-Warner Robins and 21-14 defeat to West Forsyth (No. 10 Class AAAAAA).
Not only did the Falcons avoid their first 0-3 start since 2004 with a 45-27 win over Cedar Shoals on the road, they opened region play with a win over a fellow playoff contender. Cedar Shoals had opened the season 2-0 and figures to be in the hunt for a top-four spot in the region under new coach Chris Davis after averaging 28 points per contest through its first three games.
West Hall also picked up some momentum heading into region play next week. The Spartans, who hadn’t won since the first week of last October, defeated Lumpkin County for the first time since 2006, and they did it with defense. The Indians finished with only 182 yards of offense as West Hall overcame an 11-7 deficit in the second half to win 27-11.
The Spartans open their Region 7-AAA slate Friday at Banks County (1-2), while Flowery Branch will try to move to 2-0 in 8-AAAAA when it hosts Loganville (1-2, 0-1).
BIG NIGHT FOR AREA QUARTERBACKS: Area signal callers were at their best in games across Northeast Georgia on Friday night.
Of the 18 local schools that played Friday, six had quarterbacks who accounted for at least 270 yards or had a hand in at least five touchdowns.
None, though, were as outstanding as Gainesville’s Deshaun Watson. The junior, who was The Times Player of the Year and the Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year last season, was uneven at times during the Red Elephants’ 1-1 start. In a loss to West Forsyth and a win over Buford, he threw for more than 500 yards and five touchdowns, but also gave up seven interceptions. But in Gainesville’s 69-0 win over Winder-Barrow on Friday, he was flawless. Guiding the Red Elephants to a 62-0 halftime advantage before sitting out the second half, Watson completed all 16 of his passes for 331 yards and seven touchdowns. He also ran for 41 yards and another score.
Here’s a recap of other big performances by area quarterbacks:
- Tyler Dominy, Dawson County: 23 of 29 for 412 passing yards and six touchdowns
- Jackson McDonald, Flowery Branch: 19 of 22 for 208 passing yards and two touchdowns; 142 rushing yards and three touchdowns
- Kyle Daniel, Jackson County: 21 of 30 for 300 yards and five touchdowns
- Bryant Shirreffs, Jefferson: 17 of 26 for 144 passing yards and one touchdown; 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns
- Will Brock, White County: 4 of 5 passing for 107 yards and one touchdown; 45 rushing yards and four touchdowns
- T Bentley, Union County: 146 yards and one touchdown passing; 78 yards and two touchdowns rushing
Not surprisingly, each of the above quarterbacks led their teams to a win.
VIKINGS GO ON THE OFFENSIVE: East Hall coach Bryan Gray warned before the season opener against Dawson County that the Vikings could not to get too high or low regardless of that game’s outcome.
It seems his players have listened. After a 42-0 loss against the Tigers, East Hall (2-1, 0-1 Region 7-AAA) has won back to back games, scoring nearly 40 points per game in the process. Friday night’s 50-20 win over East Jackson marked the first time since 2005 East Hall has scored 50 in a game.
The Vikings are getting it done through a variety of sources. Last week, Edward Vergara led the way with more than 100 yards rushing. On Friday, Austen Mahaffey had 118 yards on 16 carries and Quay Jarrells had 96 on seven as five backs had at least 50 rushing yards and seven had at least 25. The Vikings finished with an eye-popping 472 rushing yards on 59 carries.
East Hall hosts Johnson (2-2) on Friday before stepping back into region play at unbeaten White County on Sept. 28.