Spartans 28, Knights 0
Difference maker: Kwon Williams made the big plays counts, racking up 112 yards on just eight rushes. His interception was the most attractive achievement of the night, as he rose high to make the grab off of Chase Sims’ wayward pass.
Stat that matters: 8 penalties for 75 yards. While West Hall accrued more flags and lost yardage, the Knights lost their composure during drives when they looked almost certain to score. An early drive in the first quarter was marred by two straight holding calls, which knocked Johnson beyond even field goal range.
Turning point: Some of the Johnson fans were still filing into the stands when Williams burst through the middle of the Knights’ linebackers in a 63-yard dash to the end zone. The Spartans were up by a score within 45 seconds.
Who’s next: West Hall hosts Chestatee next week, while Johnson welcomes Banks County to Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium.
West Hall coach Tony Lotti had his team vote last week to decide who would be the team’s top 10 leaders in the locker room for the upcoming season.
Junior running back Kwon Williams was one of those selected. He validated his teammates’ faith by scoring three touchdowns — two on the ground and one on an interception return — Friday night in a 28-0 shutout win against rival Johnson at Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium.
With the victory, West Hall has won the Battle of Oakwood for the past two years, as well as three of the last four.
The Spartans (1-0) ran riot over the hosts with 186 yards on the ground, including 112 yards from Williams. On the other side of the ball, the West Hall defense did a masterful job containing Johnson (0-2) and quarterback Chase Sims (4-6, 61 yards, 2 INT).
Williams returned the first pick with 3:51 left in the first quarter to put West Hall up 14-0.
“For me, it’s all about bragging rights,” Williams said after the game. “All leading up to this game, it’s been getting tense and everybody’s talking. This was the first time we could come out as a team and we did it.”
It took only two plays for Williams to expose the Johnson defense. He burst through the Knights’ linebackers and scored from 63 yards out within the first 45 seconds of play.
On offense, Johnson fell foul of a number of badly-timed penalties during key drives.
The Knights found themselves within the West Hall 30-yard line as early as the first quarter, but two straight holding calls tempered any chance for Johnson to tie the game.
Johnson chewed up more than five minutes on the next drive following Williams’ pick-six, but a chop block penalty turned a manageable 3rd-and-4 attempt into a long 3rd-and-20 pass that Sims couldn’t complete.
“You can’t be making the types of mistakes that we did against a team as good as this,” coach Jason Roquemore said of his team’s performance. “We’re not where (we need to be) at offensively yet to be able to come back when you’re behind the sticks like that.”
West Hall marched 86 yards in a five-minute long drive which culminated in senior Ty Statham leaping in to score from three yards out to extend the lead to 21-0 before halftime.
The Spartans’ defense, led by new defensive coordinator and former Georgia Tech tight end Jay Reid, held Johnson to only one attempt in the redzone.
That try was courtesy of a fake field goal rush attempt by Orion Pittman to keep a crucial third quarter drive alive. Pittman’s three-yard rush did just enough to earn the Knights their ninth first down of the game with just under three minutes left to play in the quarter.
But the West Hall defense later swarmed on Sims as he was about to make a handoff play to Kavin Hopkins, forcing a fumble and ending the best opportunity the Knights had to get back in the game.
“It’s frustrating to me how many first downs we gave up to them,” Lotti said. “But I was real happy when the boys didn’t lose their concentration when Johnson got on a roll. Nobody’s bigger than the rest of the team and they played like a unit today.”
Williams finished off West Hall’s scoring when he completed a 6-play, 42-yard drive with a 3-yard run through a crowd of Johnson defenders for a score. His effort in the fourth quarter was just gravy to West Hall, who had wrapped up the win long before Tristian Hester intercepted Sims with three minutes left in the game.
“This means we’re growing and we can get better and work on some of the things we need to work on,” Williams said. “As the top leaders on the team, if we lose, it’s our fault, but if we win, we get to celebrate with everyone.”
West Hall hosts Chestatee on Friday, while Johnson welcomes Banks County to Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium.