Vikings 34, Lions 7
Difference maker: East Hall senior quarterback Devin Watson rushed for four touchdowns and finished the game with 325 combined rushing and passing yards.
Stat that matters: The Vikings scored touchdowns on four of their first five offensive possessions, to take a 27-7 lead into halftime.
Turning point: Leading 21-7 late in the first half, Watson carried it in for a 55-yard touchdown run.
Who’s next: East Hall visits Fannin County on Friday in Blue Ridge; Franklin County visits Johnson in Oakwood.
On a handful of occasions Friday, Devin Watson made plays that were sheer athletic brilliance for East Hall.
Even when he didn’t reach the end zone, he found a way to slice through Franklin County’s defense for huge gains. On top of play-making ability that was head and shoulders superior, he also flashed some improvisation that carried the Vikings (4-4, 2-2 Region 7-AAA) into the end zone and a runaway 34-7 win.
“Devin just had an unbelievable game tonight,” said Vikings’ senior wide receiver Junior Lee, who had a first-quarter touchdown catch from Watson. “It’s a great feeling to have a quarterback that is a dual threat running and passing the ball.”
Watson finished the night nearly perfect in all aspects, except for big loss taken on a second-half sack. East Hall’s senior quarterback rushed for four touchdowns and threw for the score to Lee. Then on defense, Watson wrestled the ball away from the Franklin County receiver deep in Vikings’ territory for the interception late in the opening half.
Watson finished the game with 181 rushing yards, while completing 11 of 14 throws for 144 yards. With the win, East Hall remains right in the thick of the playoff hunt with league games against Fannin County and Banks County remaining.
“We feel like we can get on a roll now, and hopefully win out from here,” said Watson. He said the team is playing for former teammate Carlos Salazar, who died in a drowning accident over the summer.
With the game already fully in command in the fourth quarter, Watson made his most amazing run of the night. After missing the correct read, Watson took the snap thinking it was a pass play at the Franklin County 25. After dancing around in the backfield, and making the first few defenders miss, Watson had the presence of mind to realize all of his teammates were already blocking downfield, expecting the run. That’s when he improvised on the spot, tucked the ball in and weaved through the remaining defenders in pursuit for the 25-yard scoring run.
“I couldn’t believe it when I got into the end zone,” said Watson. “I realized I read the play wrong, thinking it was a pass when it was really a run play.”
Watson also scored on first-half touchdown runs of 1, 3 and 55 yards. The Vikings’ longest run of the night came on a 63-yard scamper late in the first quarter. With the ball in Franklin County (2-6, 1-4) territory, Watson outran the entire Lions’ defense to the sideline and appeared to clip the pylon at the goal line, but was marked down inside the 1.
He punched it in on a draw the next play.
Although Franklin County was efficient running the ball, East Hall made key plays when needed to put a damper on long drives. Slippery running back Conner Williams led Lions with 41 attempts for 159 yards. Franklin finished the game with 259 of its 296 yards on the ground.
In addition to Watson’s first defensive interception of the season, junior Triquece Ware also pulled down a pick for the Vikings. Watson’s 55-yard touchdown run came off Franklin County’s only turnover on the ground, while the Lions were also hit with seven penalties for 70 yards.
Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, Franklin County pieced together its only touchdown drive. After a heavy dose of Williams running the ball, quarterback Tyrique David scored on a keeper from the 10 for the Lions on fourth down.
East Hall regained the lead almost immediately, thanks to Watson’s long run down to the goal line and dive in on the next play for the score. The Vikings’ secondary kept David off-balance throwing the ball, holding him to just 4 for 19 passing for 36 yards.
Jacques Ash had added 17 carries for 65 yards for East Hall.
On Friday, East Hall visits Fannin County in Blue Ridge; Franklin County visits Johnson in Oakwood.