Blue Devils 27, Vikings 7
Difference maker: Replacing star Tyshon Dye, Elbert's Randy Jones scored two touchdowns (one rushing, onereceiving) and carried the ball for 127 yards on only six attempts.
Stat that matters: The Blue Devils had nine plays of 20 yards or more on the night.
Turning point: Up 13-0 at the half, Randy Jones took a sweep for a 68-yard touchdown to extend the Elbert County lead.
Who's next: Elbert County advances to the state playoffs from Region 8-AA. The Blue Devils will play at Pepperell next week. East Hall's season is complete.
Coming into Friday night's Region 8-AA play-in game, the East Hall Vikings wanted to show that they had what it took to compete with one of the best teams in Northeast Georgia.
With a playoff berth on the line, the Vikings (5-5, 3-3) played their hearts out but it wasn't enough in a 27-7 loss to Elbert County.
The score doesn't reflect how competitive Friday night's game actually was as the Viking offense ran 57 plays on the night and kept the ball away from an explosive Elbert County (9-1, 6-1) offense.
"We came out and competed," said East Hall coach Bryan Gray, "Our kids came out and did not back down and played as hard as we could. We gave them everything we had and left everything out on the field."
Things looked to be going in the Vikings' favor as news spread at the start that star running back Tyshon Dye would not play due to an injury sustained in last week's loss to North Oconee.
However, the biggest difference between winning and losing was the big yardage plays by Elbert County. The East Hall offense had the ball for a longer period of time, but the Blue Devils had the edge in the total number of big-yardage plays.
"We saw what they had done to the No. 1 team over here on this side of the subregion." Elbert County coach Sid Fritts said. "We knew that they had gotten better. We knew that if we didn't come out play with our best effort that we'd be leaving here feeling sorry for ourselves."
Elbert County will take the No. 3 seed from Region 8-AA and play at Pepperell (No. 2, 7-AA) next week. The Vikings end the season at 5-5, their best mark since 2006..
The Blue Devil offense had nine plays of 20 yards or more on the night, including seven in the first half alone. And it all got started early, as on the second play from scrimmage fullback Demetrius Sanders rumbled up the middle for a 38-yard touchdown run for the first points of the night.
East Hall went into the second half only trailing by 13 points and things looked even better when the Vikings' ball-control offense got possession first. However, the Blue Devil defense had a different plan as it forced a three and out.
On the ensuing possession, Blue Devil running back Randy Jones took a handoff on a sweep play to his left and sprinted down the sideline to put Elbert County up 20-0 with 9:35 left in the third quarter.
The Blue Devil offense wasn't finished. The tandem of quarterback Hunter Blackmon and Jones connected on a 32-yard touchdown pass to make the score 27-0 with 4:16 left in the third quarter.
The Vikings responded quickly on the ensuing kickoff as running back Jamond Witt fielded the kick around his 10-yard line, found a seam, broke a couple of tackles and outran several Elbert defenders to give the Vikings their only score on the night.
"Credit to coach Gray and his staff for bringing his team along throughout the year and seeing continued improvement," Fritts said.
East Hall began the game pulling out all stops and attempted an onside kick. However, an offsides penalty prevented the Vikings from pulling off the recovery. Gray had actually decided very early in the week what he would do if the Vikings kicked off first in the game.
"Monday," he said. "When we kick off, we were going to do it. We've got to do everything we can to win."
Witt led the Viking offensive attack with 111 yards on 21 rushing attempts to go with his electrifying kickoff return. Quarterback Cameron Davis chipped in 59 yards rushing as well.
The Blue Devils were led by Jones, who had 127 yards rushing and one touchdown rushing and receiving each. Sanders added 108 rushing yards and two touchdowns for the Blue Devils.
"Our kids did everything within their power to play as hard as they could, and I'm very proud of them," Gray said.