Friday night’s Region 7-AAAA opener between revamped Chestatee and West Hall literally came down one big pass completion by quarterback Jacob Satterfield in the Spartans’ 35-28 victory at War Eagle Stadium.
In a back-and-forth game, Spartans head coach Tony Lotti assumed it was going to come down to one player stepping up a critical situation. That moment came with less than two minutes left to play after the Spartans forced a War Eagles punt.
Satterfield noticed a hesitant War Eagle cornerback, and fired a pass in the direction of an open AJ Favorite along the sideline on the next play. On his only catch of the night, Favorite shook off two War Eagle tacklers, got a block downfield and dashed 45 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:45 left.
“If he was only gonna have one, I was glad it was that one,” Lotti said with a smile.
“And I dunno what happened to their corner on the play, but he seemed to stop. And then, you know, we had somebody downfield to block him. He (Favorite) made a great catch, and Jake made a great throw. Like I said, it’s kind of like, sometimes it comes down to who makes the last play.”
Lotti’s defense finished the deed on Chestatee’s final drive. Senior linebacker George Lira sacked War Eagles’ quarterback Storm Yarbrough for a 10-yard loss on first down. Additional pressure by the Spartans’ front seven prevented the War Eagles to convert a fourth-and-20 three plays later.
That last-minute surge on both sides of the ball was just what the Spartans needed after turning the ball over three times — two interceptions, one lost fumble — and saw the War Eagles score 15 unanswered points to tie it in the waning minutes.
“They gave us some fits up front, especially when we got up,” Lotti said. “They made some great adjustments, and we didn’t do a good job of really responding to that. ... It comes down to I’ll take it, it’s 1-0 in the region, and on a very wet night. I was very proud of the way we responded.”
Despite turning the ball over twice themselves, the War Eagles cashed in one of two Charles Jackson interceptions and forced a turnover on downs thanks to a stop by linebacker Nick Beard to set up their final scoring drive.
The outskirts of Hurricane Matthew came in the form of steady rainfall at War Eagle Stadium on Friday night. Luckily for Chestatee and West Hall, it didn’t phase them one bit in this Region 7-AAAA opener.
Yarbrough (17 completions, 228 yards, 2 touchdowns, INT) found ways to make plays in any way possible for the War Eagles to help put them back in contention. Yarbrough escaped a sure sack on the first play of Chestatee’s final scoring drive and threw on the run to Reggie James for a 23-yard pickup into the Spartans’ territory. Yarbrough then converted a third and long into a 30-yard touchdown connection with Jacob Goodall with 3:19 left a few plays later.
Both teams traded punches for much of the first half with a combined 524 yards of offense. The War Eagles were the first ones to find the board on the fourth play from scrimmage. Nick Lyles, who rushed for 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half, took his first carry up the gut for a 57-yard touchdown scamper at the 10:35 mark.
Tyrese Osborne returned the favor on the Spartans’ fourth play of the ensuing drive. The senior feature back cut back inside and dashed 64 yards to even the contest at 7-7.
Both quarterbacks also engaged in a duel despite the soggy conditions. Satterfield was a perfect 5-for-5 passing for 93 yards, a touchdown and interception in the first half, while Chestatee’s Storm Yarbrough was 10-of-16 passing for 108 yards, a touchdown and interception.
Satterfield was the first to strike on the Spartans’ second possession, on his first pass attempt. His heave fell in the hands of Cameron Shirley for a catch-and-run pickup of 48 yards to Chestatee’s 16. Satterfield then converted a fourth-and-1 and threw to Cameron Shirley for a 3-yard touchdown pass to put the Spartans up 14-7.
Satterfield added a 59-yard rushing score up the middle to put the Spartans up 21-13 midway through the second quarter.
Lira put the Spartans ahead 28-13 by jumping on a War Eagles fumbled snap in the end zone on a punt attempt with 4:13 left in the half.
A fumble recovery by Beard resulted in the War Eagles making it a one-score game on a 33-yard Yarbrough touchdown pass to Reggie James. Yarbrough converted the two-point conversion with a pass to Baylee Camp to bring it to 28-21.
West Hall (5-2, 1-0) has Marist next at home. Chestatee (3-4, 0-1) travels to Roswell next for a matchup with Blessed Trinity.