Indians 44, Spartans 14
Difference maker: Stephens County's offense was balanced and explosive, racking up most of their 351 yards in the first half.
Stat that matters: Stephens County outgained West Hall 204-49 in the air.
Turning point: After the Spartans got on the board for the first time in the second quarter, the Indians poured on 17 unanswered points to go into halftime up 31-7.
Who's next: Stephens County hosts Franklin County on Sept. 30; West Hall visits Walnut Grove after a bye week.
Stephens County already knew it had the athletes, but Friday night proved it could give them the space they needed to make explosive plays.
Big strikes were seemingly there for the taking all night as West Hall’s gritty efforts early on could not overcome Stephens’ athleticism, and the Spartans fell to the Indians 44-14.
The Indians struck early and often, biting off crushing play after play. Stephens County (3-1) finished with 351 yards of offense with a balanced but explosive attack.
It was evident by halftime that West Hall (0-4) did not have the closing speed to catch up, with Stephens County jumping out to a commanding 31-7 lead.
Chaz Thornton struck first with an 11-yard touchdown run, then followed with another 5-yard run to put the Indians up two scores. He ground out 61 yards on the ground, most of which came in the first half.
The Spartans responded with a workmanlike drive, combining solid running plays up the middle with their bruising tailback Antonio Pittman and solid play from quarterback Chandler Newton.
But the Spartans were dealt a devastating blow when Newton went down after a hard hit. He was forced to sit out the rest of the game, with Zach English stepping in.
“He was making some good reads and some good plays there before he went down,” West Hall coach Mike Newton said.
Newton’s pass on a post pattern to AJ Stephens put the Spartans within a touchdown of Stephens County.
It didn’t take long for Stephens County to respond, scoring 17 consecutive points before the half. The outcome of the game well in hand, the Indians came out in the second half with Foster Westmoreland leading the offense in relief of Dionte Mayfield.
Mayfield finished with 4-9 for 160 yards and two touchdowns, and his backup tacked on another 34 yards and a touchdown.
The scoring was over after Spartan running back Rico Jones broke untouched wide on the left side for a long 65-yard score. That run made up a huge chunk of West Hall’s 299 yards of total offense.
Despite their overall dominance in every phase of the game, Stephens County coach Travis Noland walked away from this game with several concerns.
“We’re a young team, and right now we’re pretty banged up,” he said.
Stephens enjoys a bye next week before tackling Franklin County.
Penalties marred what was otherwise a well-executed game by Stephens County. The Indians incurred six penalties for 50 yards, two of which were personal foul penalties. Though one of these penalties was offset by a personal foul on West Hall on the same play, Noland knows that these kinds of mental mistakes can cost his team dearly against better competition.
“I was definitely disappointed in the number of penalties,” he said. “We’ll be working on that hard these next couple of weeks.”