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War Eagles' defense stuffs Stephens County, 17-0
'Chestatee football' good enough for key region victory
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War Eagles 17, Indians 0

Difference maker: Zac Cheshire pounded out a game-high 189 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries to spark Chestatee on the scoreboard. The War Eagles’ entire defense saved its best outing of the season for arguably its most sizable opponent.

Stat that matters: Chestatee held Stephens County to a season-best 149 yards, and more importantly a season-low zero points.

Turning point: With the Indians marching up the field early in the fourth quarter, the War Eagles’ defense halted their 63-yard drive on the 27-yard line by batting away two pass attempts — one headed to the end zone — and sacking quarterback Zeb Noland to force a turnover on downs. Eight plays later on the next drive, Cheshire punched in the final touchdown to seal the victory.

Who’s next: Chestatee hosts Johnson next Friday at War Eagle Stadium. Stephens County hosts Monroe Area in Toccoa.

Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell called his team’s 17-0 win over Stephens County on Friday “playing Chestatee football.”

If that’s how the War Eagles plan to play the rest of the year, things could get ugly for the rest of their opponents.

Led by a stout defense and a two-touchdown, 189-yard performance by running back Zac Cheshire, Chestatee (3-1, 2-0 Region 8-AAAA) won its third straight game, using its trademark strategy of wearing out the opposing defense with physical, run-heavy drives that eat up big portions of the clock.

But their the War Eagles’ defense also got into the mix, holding Stephens County (3-2, 1-1) to a season-low 149 yards and, more importantly, zero points.

“I was very proud; total team effort — offense, defense and special teams,” Luttrell said. “I really felt like this was a complete victory in all phases of the game.”

The win marks Chestatee’s first shutout in nine games, dating back to last season, and just its fifth in school history.

“Just a blue-collar win,” Luttrell said. “We’ve won a lot of big games in the past, and this is a big one because it’s a region game and puts us in a great position for the future.”

With the win, Chestatee now shares a portion of the Region 8-AAAA lead with Monroe Area, which stayed unbeaten with a win over Lanier on Friday. The two teams will meet Nov. 1.

Wins such as Friday’s will surely be referenced when playoff seedings are determined, and the War Eagles like where they stand through four games.

“I think it puts us in a good position,” Luttrell said. “I don’t think you can overlook anyone in this region. It puts us exactly where we want to be, and keeps us playing for a region championship.”

Chestatee totaled 318 yards of offense against the sizable Stephens County squad, which Luttrell called the largest his team had encountered since a season-opening loss to North Hall on Aug. 30.

The War Eagles led 10-0 at halftime, scoring first on a 23-yard field goal by Eddy Zamora with 51 seconds left in the first quarter.

Cheshire, who scored had his highest rushing total of the season, capped off an 80-yard drive with a 7-yard run with five minutes left in the second quarter. Tray Bryant set up the score with a 14-yard run on a third-and-10 situation on the Stephens County 21-yard line.

“Our line was getting really good push and they were blocking really well down the field, so the holes were pretty big to hit,” Cheshire said. “They did a good job of getting me to the end zone.”

Chestatee cut deep into Stephens County territory two more times during the second and third quarters, but had nothing to show of it with a pair of missed field goals.

The botched scoring opportunities put the Indians in position to cut the deficit to three late in the third quarter and early in the fourth. They marched 69 yards downfield to the Chestatee 11, only to get halted when the War Eagles broke up two pass attempts and sacked quarterback Zeb Noland to force a turnover on downs.

Chestatee recorded four sacks in the game.

“In situations like that, we all just go out there and play together,” War Eagles defensive lineman Khalil Cantrell said. “We’re all communicating and tell each other that we’re not going to let it happen. We’re going to play hard every snap, all out.”

Chestatee made Stephens County pay for the shortcoming, with Cheshire breaking open for a 33-yard run — the longest play of the game — on the ensuing drive. Six plays later, he converted a fourth-and-goal on the Indians’ 1-yard line for his second touchdown of the game with 4:53 left to play.

“The mentality on fourth down when we’re trying to get a first down is trying to get a hole and just lower my shoulder, and getting however many yards we need,” Cheshire said.

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