Warriors 14, Spartans 0
Difference maker: A.J. Vandiver led White County with 63 yards rushing, while also throwing for 48 yards, including a 28-yard third-quarter touchdown pass that put the Warriors ahead 14-0.
Stat that matters: West Hall started five drives on its own 40 or better, but failed to muster the offensive production to move down the field for a score.
Turning point: With a narrow 7-0 lead, White County used a 28-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Vandiver to Clancy Loudermilk to take a 14-0 lead with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter.
Who’s next: White County closes out its regular season next Friday with a visit to Banks County. West Hall visits Dawson County in Dawsonville in a game that will decide the No. 4 seed out of the region.
White County is known for its option attack, but on Friday night in Oakwood, a few big passing plays were the ultimate difference.
The Warriors (7-2, 5-1 Region 7-AAA) used a pair of touchdown passes to defeat the West Hall Spartans 14-0, maintaining their ground at obtaining the second region seed.
“I’m proud of the guys. They played hard all night,” White County coach Bill Ballard said. “We’re just glad to come out with the victory tonight.”
White County can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win Nov. 8 over winless Banks County or a North Hall loss against top-ranked Buford.
“I’m excited about our team and I feel like we are going to play hard against anyone we go against,” Ballard said. “We’ve got Banks County next week and we’ve got to spend some time this week getting healthy and finishing the season right.”
After turning the ball over on their first two offensive possessions, the Warriors dug deep into their bag of tricks to grab a 7-0 lead. On just the third play of the drive, quarterback A.J. Vandiver tossed it to sophomore back Adam Johnson, who connected with a wide-open Will Flowers for a 74-yard scoring strike to take a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
The Warriors maintained their lead until adding a 28-yard touchdown pass from Vandiver to freshman Clancy Loudermilk in the closing minutes of the third quarter, putting White County ahead 14-0.
“When you run the option, the secondary has a tendency of getting their eyes in the backfield, sucking up on the run,” Ballard said. “That’s when Coach (Jake) Cantrell did a great job at catching them off guard a little bit.”
Besides the two passing touchdowns by White County, the majority of the night was owned by the defensive units. West Hall was able to limit White County to 276 yards of total offense while forcing three turnovers. Each time the Spartans got a turnover, though, they were unable to take advantage of great field position.
“In big ballgames, you can’t make mistakes,” West Hall coach Tony Lotti said. “Our defense, I was proud of how they came out and played. We got some turnovers and we didn’t capitalize on it. We kind of stalled out a little bit.”
The third turnover came in the closing seconds of the first half when senior Zach English, the Spartans’ quarterback, intercepted Vandiver in the red zone.
English returned the ball to the White County 37 but was injured on the play. English left the game at halftime and didn’t play the entire second half. He was replaced at quarterback by freshman Jacob Satterfield.
Satterfield completed 7 of 11 passes for 83 yards in relief of English, but West Hall was not able to put together a scoring drive. The Spartans finished the night with just 185 yards of total offense, and only 63 yards rushing.
The shutout was the Warriors’ third of the season, two more than they had all of last season.
“Our guys, a lot of them have a lot of experience,” Ballard said of his defense. “They’ve played a lot of football games in high school. When you have that many guys that’ve played that much, they know what we are trying to do.”
While White County needed to win Friday night to help bolster its position in the region standings, a loss did not hurt West Hall (5-4, 3-3). Regardless of Friday’s outcome, the Spartans must win next week over Dawson County (5-4, 3-3) in Dawsonville to clinch the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
“Coming into this one, even if we beat (White County) we were going to have to win next week,” Lotti said. “Next week is the game. And it’s not that we didn’t have any emphasis on this game, I don’t want to give that impression because we did, but next week is it. Even if we won this one, we have to beat Dawson next week.”