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Warriors 6, Vikings 0
Difference maker: Dalton Whitfield; the senior led White County with a game-high 122 yards rushing on 12 carries and scored the game’s only touchdown in the third quarter. He also led the charge on defense, limiting East Hall to 192 yards on the night.
Stat that matters: White County converted three fourth-down conversions on its final offensive possession of the night to secure the victory.
Turning point: With the game scoreless early in the third quarter, Whitfield scored White County’s only touchdown of the night, making the score 6-0. Then, the White County defense forced an East Hall interception, a punt and turnover on downs on its final three offensive possessions of the night.
Who’s next: White County is idle next Friday night and returns to action Oct. 11 at reigning state champion Buford. East Hall visits region foe North Hall next week.
White County shut down the high-tempo offense of East Hall on Friday night, pitching its second shutout of the season and earning a key Region 7-AAA victory in the process.
With the defense playing lights out, providing more than enough pressure on Vikings’ quarterback Devon Watson, the Warriors’ offense did just enough in the 6-0 victory.
“I’m real proud of our defense,” White County coach Bill Ballard said. “Offensively we did what we had to do to win the ballgame. I’m excited to win the game. It is a region win for us and that is big.”
Dalton Whitfield scored the game’s lone touchdown on White County’s opening possession of the second half, breaking loose down the left sideline for a 15-yard score.
White County pounded away at the East Hall defense all night, with Whitfield leading the charge. The senior recorded a game-high 122 yards rushing on 12 carries, fueled by a 73-yard run in the second quarter. Whitfield also led the dominating effort on defense for the Warriors.
It was an effort that limited the Viking offense to just 192 yards on the night, and limited Watson, who scored six touchdowns in a rout of Johnson a week ago, to a season-low six yards rushing and just 120 yards passing.
“It always feels good to come out against an athletic team that has been scoring a lot of points on the season and hold them to nothing,” Whitfield said. “It raises our self-esteem.”
After blocking White County’s extra point chance in the third quarter, East Hall had its chances to secure a potential game-winning score. But each time, the Warrior defense rose to the occasion and made a stop, bringing the pressure to Watson and the East Hall receivers.
“The defensive line stepped up and made a lot of plays,” Ballard said. “Nobody had pressured them yet, so our game plan was to go in and pressure (Watson) a little bit and make him make some decisions quicker than he wanted to.”
The defense forced East Hall’s offense off the field throughout the night, including late in the fourth quarter by holding the Vikings on a fourth-and-9 attempt at the White County 25. Yet the Warrior offense made its share of mistakes to keep the game close.
After Whitfield set up the Warrior offense with first-and-goal at the 9 late in the first quarter, Maurice Sutton fumbled on the following play, and East Hall recovered.
The Warriors were held on downs in the third quarter and lost another fumble in the fourth quarter, which ended a potential game-icing drive.
But each time, it was the White County defense that rose to the occasion, forcing the East Hall offense off the field time and time again.
Then in the closing minutes, after the defense had made its final stand, the Warrior offense converted three fourth downs on its final drive, running the final seven minutes and change off the clock to secure the win.
“I was real proud of them on that,” Ballard said, of converting three fourth-downs. “We really pride ourselves on running some of those plays. We run ‘wham’ and ‘belly’ and those plays. We have an old-school offense and I am real proud of how they answered that right there.
“We just took the air out of the ball and I can’t say enough of their efforts.”
With the win, White County improved to 2-0 in Region 7-AAA, an important step in securing a second straight playoff berth. The win also came just a week after being blown out at home, 30-0, by Blessed Trinity.
Despite the loss last week, the Warriors’ focus quickly turned to Friday night’s region contest and the importance of earning the win.
The focus paid off for White County, which has two weeks off to prepare for top-ranked Buford.
“We blocked (the loss) out,” Whitfield said. “We have to act like it didn’t happen. We needed to focus on East Hall because it was a region game and you have to just fight the hardest.”
While the win moved the Warriors closer to the playoffs, it moved the Vikings closer to missing out on the playoffs.
The Vikings fell to 0-2 in the region, with games against fourth-ranked North Hall and No. 1 Buford remaining on the schedule.