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Lumpkin builds lead, holds off East Hall 38-35
Indians grind down Viking defense with ball control attack
East Hall’s Jacques Ash avoids a tackle by Lumpkin County’s Gunner Wood on Friday at East Hall Stadium. - photo by Jared Putnam

Indians 38, Vikings 35

Difference maker: Gunner Wood scored the first touchdown of the game on an 82-yard run. He was just getting started on a night when he finished with 185 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Stat that matters: Lumpkin County’s 10 minutes, 23 seconds of possession in the fourth quarter. Even though East Hall scored on two of its final three drives, the Indians kept the Vikings offense on the sidelines long enough to maintain control late.

Turning point: Cal Thrailkill’s interception of Devin Watson on second-and-goal from the 3 gave the ball back to Lumpkin County with 1:24 left in the third quarter and kept East Hall from tying the game. The Indians went on a drive that last more than seven minutes and ended in a field goal.

Who’s next: Lumpkin County (2-3, 1-0 Region 7-AAA) plays host to Franklin County while East Hall (1-3, 0-1) travels to Dawson County for a pair of region matchups next Friday.

A pair of quick-strike touchdowns helped Lumpkin County take control early. Then, the Indians’ ball-control offense kept them in front late.

An 82-yard scoring run by Gunner Wood and a 75-yard touchdown run from Bradley Womack provided the early sparks against East Hall (1-3, 0-1 Region 7-AAA). Lumpkin County’s grinding ground game kept the ball in the Indians’ possession for all but 97 seconds of the fourth quarter as they earned a 38-35 victory over the host Vikings on Friday in both teams’ Region 7-AAA opener.

“That’s kind of what you hope having an offense like this allows you to do,” Lumpkin County coach Ty Maxwell said. “We did have some guys make some really big plays early.”

Wood totaled 185 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Womack added 176 yards and a score on 18 carries. Quarterback Zach Matthews finished with 71 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Cole White added nine carries for 45 yards, with seven of those carries and 34 of those yards coming in the fourth.

“They were more physical than us,” East Hall coach Bryan Gray said. “And we didn’t tackle and wrap up, and in football the most physical team is generally going to win.”

Noah Cromer put home a 42-yard field goal with 5:50 remaining in the game to give Lumpkin County (2-3, 1-0) a 38-28 edge and cap a 14-play drive that began with 1:24 left in the third quarter. Maxwell said his kicking coach, his twin brother Wil, was lobbying to try the field goal, the only attempt in a game that featured 10 touchdowns.

“We had faith enough in our kicker and it squeezed through,” Maxwell said.

Cal Thrailkill’s interception of Devin Watson in the end zone with the score 35-28 gave the ball back to the Indians for the 80-yard drive that ended with Cromer’s kick.

“He does a little bit of everything,” Maxwell said of Thrailkill. “I just call him ‘little baller.’ He’s not the biggest or the fastest or the strongest, but he makes plays when plays need to be made.”

Wood also had high praise for Thrailkill.

“Cal’s really good,” Wood said. “A lot of people pick on him for his size, but they underestimate him on the corners. He’s awesome.”

Watson scored on a 6-yard run with 4:13 to play in the contest to cut it to 38-35, but a trio of Lumpkin first downs made sure Watson and East Hall wouldn’t get another possession.

“This offense, it’ll eat up the clock real fast,” Wood said. “That’s the plan of it. As long as we have the ball in our hands, it’s going to eat up a lot of time.”

After Wood’s 82-yard breakaway with 2:55 left in the opening quarter, the Vikings responded with a 44-yard Watson-to-Junior Lee touchdown pass to tie it 7-all with 53 seconds to go in the first quarter. Wood’s big play came when he broke a tackle, then sped away from the defense down the sideline.

“The way the defense was, they ran in, so we were going to try to go around,” Wood said.

A Matthews 3-yard touchdown run, which came the play after he had a 31-yard gain on the ground, and Womack’s powerful 75-yard score pushed it to 21-7 in the Indians’ favor less than three minutes into the second quarter.

“They ran about four plays, it seemed like,” Gray said. “And they ran them very well, and they knocked us off the ball. And they deserved the victory.”

A pair of 5-yard scoring runs from Jacques Ash, which came on drives where Watson had runs of 21 and 29 yards, allowed East Hall to tie the contest briefly at 21-all with 3:23 remaining before halftime.

Matthews hit Zach Samples for a 7-yard touchdown pass on third-and-goal with 7.5 seconds left in the second quarter. The Matthews-to-Samples connection capped a 11-play, 65-yard march and gave Lumpkin the lead for good, 28-21, going into the break.

The Indians pushed it to 35-21 when Wood’s 3-yard touchdown run finished off a nine-play, 52-yard drive, aided by a pair of Vikings offsides penalties, to start the third quarter.

Watson’s 33-yard touchdown run cut it to a one-score game with 5:13 left in the third, and a Triquece Ware interception gave East Hall the ball back with a chance to tie.

But Thrailkill’s end-zone interception, his second pick of the night, on second-and-goal turned the tide.

Watson totaled 203 yards and a score passing with 146 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground after missing last week’s game against Jackson County with a shoulder injury. Ash had 82 yards and the two touchdowns on 14 carries, and Lee pulled in five receptions for 109 yards and a score.

Lumpkin County is host to Franklin County and East Hall visits Dawson County next Friday in Region 7-AAA action.

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