If the message wasn’t received when they knocked off playoff contender Eastside 57-56 in double overtime last week, you can bet that it was heard loud and clear Friday.
The 2012 Chestatee War Eagles are for real.
Stan Luttrell’s bunch went into Toccoa and stunned fifth-ranked Stephens County, the Region 8-AAAA favorite, 24-20, limiting the prolific Stephens County offense to 25 points below its average and scoring three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a back-and-forth affair.
For the War Eagles (3-1, 2-0), the season is less than half complete, but at this early stage, they’ve positioned themselves well to break a five-season playoff drought. Along with Monroe Area, Chestatee stands atop the region standings and has already dispatched two of the four teams currently tied for third place at 1-1.
The War Eagles’ split-back veer offense is led by a trio of capable running backs in Quan Clark, A.J. Sijiye and Brandon Thompson. Quarterback Jordan Degraff is a threat as well, and scored twice in the win over Stephens County.
But perhaps most impressive in Friday’s victory was the showing of the defense, which was facing a Stephens County team that came in boasting the state’s leading receiver (Tomas Colbert) and a Division-I prospect at running back (Chaz Thornton).
Chestatee plays its final nonregion game of the season Friday at Johnson (3-2), before returning to region play against Walnut Grove (1-4, 0-2) on Oct. 12.
ANSWERING THE CALL: On the heels of a 21-19 loss to Blessed Trinity last week, White County appeared to be re-entering region play on Friday night severely short-handed.
Dalton Whitfield, a standout at linebacker and a key piece of the Warriors’ running attack, was knocked out of last week’s game early with a broken jaw, and starting quarterback Will Brock — who leads the Warriors in rushing and passing yards — wasn’t able to play against East Hall due to an injury to his throwing hand.
But A.J. Vandiver and Sam Turner made sure the Warriors (4-1, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) didn’t miss a beat.
At quarterback, Vandiver’s first pass went 58 yards for a touchdown to Andrew Bergin, and Turner led a balanced running game with 97 yards on 11 carries. Vandiver added 68 yards on 16 carries, and Sean Greer pitched in with 56 yards on seven carries and pair of touchdowns as the Warriors ran for 314 yards in the 41-12 win.
The injured Warriors will have time to recuperate, as White County is off on Friday before a showdown with region favorite Buford on Oct. 12.
LACKEY BREAKING OUT: Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson has no shortage of options at receiver. Before the season even began, Tray Harrison, Lahius Leverette and Caleb Hayman were all established threats on the outside.
Now, the rise of sophomore Rodney Lackey has given the unit even greater depth. Lackey, who pulled in four passes for 111 yards and a touchdown in the Red Elephants’ 42-14 win over Heritage, leads the area with 452 yards and six touchdowns on 27 receptions through five games. In his last three games, he has 20 receptions, 343 yards and four touchdowns.
The Red Elephants (4-1, 3-0 Region 8-AAAAA) play at Cedar Shoals (3-2, 1-2) on Friday.
ALLISON THE TOP PANTHER: With Union County’s 40-14 win over Andrews (N.C.) on Sept. 14, Brian Allison became the winningest coach in the program’s history, surpassing longtime coach and athletic director Terry Rogers.
Allison, who is in his second stint as the head coach of his alma mater has guided the Panthers to 57 wins in 11 seasons. In a twist of coincidence, it was also against Andrews that Allison made his first start as a varsity player in 1980, when Rogers was in his first year at the helm.
Union County (3-1, 0-1), which fell to seventh-ranked Washington-Wilkes on Friday, plays at Oglethorpe County (3-1, 1-0) this week.