DAHLONEGA — About 45 minutes before kickoff, Lumpkin County coach Shane Williamson stressed offensive ball control against an explosive East Hall team that would “get their points.”
He was just about spot-on with that prediction.
The Indians rushed for 417 yards and came up with a few key defensive stops to snag a 30-27 win Friday night at The Burial Grounds in the Region 7-AAA opener.
Senior fullback Zach Matthews ran for 258 yards and three scores as Lumpkin claimed its first region win since 2014.
“You have a game plan as a coaching staff every week, and you say, ‘If we can do this and do this, we’ve got a good chance of winning,’” Williamson said. “And tonight it kind of fell in our lap.”
A low-scoring, fast-moving game suddenly turned into a shootout in the fourth quarter in which both teams posted a pair of touchdowns. Though their defense struggled as East Hall (2-3, 0-1) scored three times in the second half, the Indians’ consistently bruising ground game milked enough clock to secure the win.
“We started catching the ball better and blocking better,” Vikings coach Bryan Gray said of his team’s success in the final two quarters. “It goes back to fundamentals and everybody doing their jobs. We challenged the kids at halftime, and we got a response in the second half. But we can’t go down like we did in the first and try to dig our way out.”
But Lumpkin (2-2, 1-0) was the team to go down first as East Hall senior running back Deon Ellison scored from 5 yards out.
That deficit didn’t last long. The Indians’ wishbone attack went to work on a 13-play, seven-minute drive that required a fourth-down conversion inside the 10-yard line before Matthews scored on a 5-yard rush of his own.
The Vikings turned the ball over on downs on their next two possessions, which both ended inside the Lumpkin 26-yard line. Gray stood by his decisions to pass on field-goal tries, saying he’d “do the same thing next Friday.”
“With their offense and their game plan, we felt good about a couple plays we had,” the 10th-year coach said. “They just didn’t execute right. They just didn’t work. That’s football.”
Williamson, however, opted for field goals on the next two possessions, which junior kicker Wesley Wells converted from 47 and 43 yards. He made another from 31 yards to cap the Indians’ first drive of the second half, which lasted more than seven minutes.
Junior quarterback Austin Parker (18-of-30, 256 yards, two touchdowns) finally got the Vikings back on the board, converting a third-and-8 with his legs before finding junior receiver Amir Ellison for a 20-yard score. A successful 2-point conversion run made it 16-15.
Then came the wild fourth quarter that featured back-and-forth touchdowns on four straight possessions. Matthews scored on runs of 12 and 6 yards, while Parker led East Hall on quick touchdown drives in response.
Lumpkin ended the contest the way it played all night — using Matthews to pick up the game-clinching first down and a gritty win to open region play under their first-year coach.
“To come in off of two losses and get a region win right here is huge for us,” Williamson said. “It’s a credit to our coaching staff working hard and our players never giving up.”