Spartans 35, Indians 0
Difference maker: Tyquan Statham showed he can make just as many big time moves as his fellow running back Kwon Williams. His one-handed snag in the end zone was the play of the game.
Stat that matters: 27: In three short years, Lotti has turned around a 2-8 cellar dweller into the Region 7-AAA champion. It’s the first region championship in the 27-year history of the program.
Turning point: Tyquan’s ready-made touchdown turned what might have been a 14-0 halftime lead into an all-out domination by the end of the second quarter.
Who’s next: West Hall will host Oconee County in the first round of the AAA state playoffs, while Lumpkin County will play Elbert County.
West Hall’s regular season began with an empty picture frame.
It ended in triumph Friday night, with head coach Tony Lotti soaked in red Gatorade and blinking back tears.
Junior running back Tyquan Statham (8 carries for 113 yards) scored two touchdowns, the West Hall defense held Lumpkin County to just 57 first-half rushing yards, and the Spartans ran roughshod over the Indians en route to winning 35-0 to earn their first region title in the 27-year history of the program.
Lotti’s rugged defense notched its fifth shutout of the year in the one-sided victory. West Hall will host Oconee County next Friday in the first round of the state playoffs.
Oconee County (7-3, 3-3) finished fourth in Region 8-AAA after yesterday’s loss to Elbert County.
The win meant redemption for Lotti, who said he “makes a living on doing what people say I couldn’t do.” The third-year head coach was emotional when he congratulated his Spartans on completing just the second nine-win season in school history.
Before the season, he promised that a West Hall team would become region champion and fill an empty picture frame that hangs in the team’s fieldhouse.
They took that picture Friday night, with Lotti’s permanent grin on display.
“For me, personally, I wanted to see smiles on the faces of those I love,” he said. “I asked these kids to work and I’m just so happy.”
The historic night began just like many throughout West Hall’s destiny-driven run. Junior running back Kwon Williams tore off a 41-yard dash to the end zone to put the Spartans up by seven on West Hall’s first drive.
Ty Maxwell’s Indians (5-5, 4-2) came to Oakwood touting a strong rush offense, led by quarterback Zach Matthews. But the sophomore (12 carries for 46 yards) could never break through West Hall’s front line of Ty Statham and Justyn Derico. Lumpkin never ventured past the West Hall 38 on a drive that ended with Statham tackling Matthews on a quarterback keeper a yard short of the first-down marker.
Prior to Friday, Lumpkin County had scored an average of 28.9 points in its nine games.
“It was a team effort,” Tyquan Statham said of the shutout. “It finally paid off in the end. We had to focus hard to do this.”
Statham’s first big run on offense was a 36-yard carry to get West Hall into Indian territory on the Spartans’ second drive of the night. A facemask penalty pushed West Hall to the Lumpkin 11 before Ty Statham burst up the middle for a 1-yard score three plays later.
Cal Thrailkill recovered the game’s lone fumble when Williams dropped a pass from quarterback Jacob Satterfield (5-for-7, 60 yards). But Williams atoned for his mistake soon afterward to stuff an Eli Allen rush in the backfield and set up a long Lumpkin third down.
With 1:20 left in the second quarter, Satterfield began a West Hall drive on his own 31. But 12 seconds later, the Spartans were watching Tyquan Statham cut to the near side before dashing 69 yards for a 21-0 halftime lead.
“I asked these kids to believe in something,” Lotti said. “I’ve made a living of doing things people said I couldn’t do. I told the kids that there will be a day when we can say, ‘How do you like me now?’”
A chop block penalty in the third quarter put West Hall on the Lumpkin 40 and provided another gilt-edged opportunity to score. Satterfield’s presence of mind paid dividends when he shifted from the far to near side before launching a pass toward two Spartan receivers. Tyquan Statham stretched his long frame to make a midair one-handed grab 7 yards into the end zone, giving West Hall its fourth score.
Statham said he didn’t know how he was able to haul in Satterfield’s pass.
“Things just happen for a reason sometimes,” he said. “We’ve been wanting this ever since we played in Junior Spartans.”
Tyrese Osborne put the icing on the cake when he beat two tackles to unleash a 78-yard touchdown run down the right sideline on the first play of the fourth quarter.
An hour after the final whistle blew, fans continued to mingle on the field with Lotti’s players, trying to hold on to the moment as long as possible. Lotti told his players to take as many pictures as they could.
The Spartans will enjoy this while they can.
Postseason practice begins Monday.
“We had a purpose and those who believe and have a purpose, they can get things done,” Lotti said. “I love these guys and I’m so happy I get to work with them every day.”