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High school football: West Hall routs Johnson, 59-7
Special teams shine for Spartans in coveted 'Battle of Oakwood'
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West Hall quarterback Michael Thompson (11) throws the ball on Friday during the Battle of Oakwood in Oakwood. - photo by David Barnes

The West Hall Spartans dominated in all three phases of the game in a 59-7 victory over the Johnson Knights at Spartan Stadium Friday night. With the win the Spartans lead the ‘Battle of Oakwood’ 16-7-1, winning five straight and six of the last seven meetings.

Special teams is an often overlooked phase, though not Friday night. The Spartans (1-1) had 131 total return yards and a blocked punt for a touchdown as they started eight of their first 10 drives inside the Johnson 40-yard line. The Spartans would need only 18 first half plays (for 191 yards) to take a commanding 45-0 lead to the locker room. 

They were just as stout defensively, holding the Knights (0-2) to 22 total yards on 25 plays behind six three and outs. 

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Johnson running back Jairo Vargas (13) gets pulled to the ground on Friday during the Battle of Oakwood in Oakwood. - photo by David Barnes

Cooper Adams (six carries 20 yards, two touchdowns) set the tone early by starting the game with a 45-yard kick return. Starting quarterback Michael Thompson (4-of-6 passing, 94 yards, TD) led the Spartans on an 8-play, 40 yard march that was keyed on a 26-yard pass to wide receiver John Stoecker on a fourth-and-15. A play later, Adams would plunge in from 3-yards out for a quick 7-0 lead at the 7:59 mark of the 1st quarter. 

The senior running back would add two punt returns for 37 yards to set up two quick one-play scoring drives, a 42 yard slant from Thompson to Cameron Shirley and a 40 yard run off a draw by Jeremiah Prather, to take a quick 21-0 first quarter lead.

“I was very pleased with how we played on special teams,” West Hall head coach Tony Lotti said after the game. “We’ve worked hard at it and since I’m responsible for that side of the ball I was very pleased with how we did. We executed the game plan very well. We hit all of our extra points and field goals. We blocked a punt for a score (Damien Fouts blocked a punt with Shirley returning it 40 yards for a 28-0 lead just before halftime) and we had good coverage.”

Johnson didn’t help their cause by totalling only 74 total yards in the contest on 31 plays. Quarter back Sam Corbett had 67 of those yards (40 rushing) and completed a 21-yard pass to David Rivera in the final quarter for the Knights’ only score. The Spartans finished with 215 total yards (131 rushing) on just 29 plays. Prather led with 56 yards rushing on just three carries as the Spartans spread the wealth running wise with four players running between 20 and 60 yards.

The Spartans defense, led by linebacker Austin Sinclair, dominated in the trenches.

 “I challenged them before we came out because I felt we got a little intimidated last week (in a 20-0 loss at Gainesville),” Lotti said. “I challenged them about playing each play in front of them and coming off the ball aggressively and I felt we did that. When you run it like you draw it up it feels good, but we know we still have work to do to get to where we want to go.”

West Hall hosts Washington-Wilkes next week while Johnson tries to rebound at Banks County.

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