Sometimes the best offense really is a good defense. Count Chestatee High football coach Stan Luttrell as a believer of that statement after Friday night.
Still riding momentum from a historic win over Gainesville the week before, Chestatee opened subregion play with a 47-14 win over East Hall at War Eagle Stadium.
The War Eagles (5-1, 1-0 Region 7A-AAA) did it on the ground, through the air and on defense. Ethan Souther connected with Spencer Grunenefelder for two touchdowns, and Jo Jo Sweet ran for two scores. Chestatee outgained East Hall (0-6, 0-1) 259 yards to 157 yards as Sweet, Ben Souther and Peyton Bazzell combined for 214 yards rushing.
The War Eagles’ defense played just as well with five takeaways.
Scott Livingston had a fumble and a diving interception while Lamar Brooks returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Chestatee held East Hall to 5 yards rushing.
The War Eagles have never won five games this early in the season.
"The Gainesville win was a big momentum boost but we have to keep it going," said Chestatee junior linebacker Chase Vasser. "East Hall has really good athletes and we wanted to contain them and keep their offense off the field. I think we did that."
East Hall’s biggest opponent turned out to be itself at times. Three turnovers and an interception helped Chestatee to start, on average, from the Vikings’ 42-yard line. On the other side, the War Eagles limited East Hall to minus-16 yards of offense in the first half while the offense rolled up 226 yards, 210 of which were on the ground.
"East Hall is a dangerous team. They have speed and they have a lot of playmakers," Luttrell said. "But we’re gaining a lot of experience doing the things we are. You can’t really say how good our defense played. The offense never really clicked but we were able to score on defense which really helped us a lot. They were really prepared for East Hall’s scheme, and they’re getting more accustomed to that shotgun spread. That helped us create turnovers."
After Chestatee’s first touchdown, a 3-yard run by Sweet, the Vikings turned the ball over on their next three possessions. Livingston recovered a fumble at the East Hall 13-yard line, and Ethan Souther hit Grunenefelder on the first play in the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
"The field position we had was great," said Grunenefelder, a junior. "You definitely have to take advantage of things like that."
Vasser recovered another fumble on the Vikings’ first play following the score, and Zach Mills took advantage with a 34-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.
Scott Degraff made a diving interception on East Hall’s next play but East Hall held the War Eagles’ to four-and-out, stopping them on a fourth-down conversion try.
"We knew we couldn’t hang with them offensively," said first-year Vikings coach Bryan Gray. "We’re young, we’re little but we’re competing."We thought if we could hold them early and play our game that we might have a chance. But three turnovers right off the bat changed that plan pretty quickly."
Ben Souther added a 5-yard run to go along with Sweet’s second 3-yard score and Mills’ 32-yard field goal with no time left in the first half for a 34-0 lead.
East Hall scored 14 points in the third quarter on a pair of touchdown passes by sophomore quarterback Desmon Gardner. The sophomore hit Montoious Tanner for a 55-yard score and Austin Morgan for 28 yards and another touchdown as the Vikings closed to 34-14 midway through the period.
But Chestatee answered with a 73-yard strike from Souther to Gruenefelder to quell any Viking hopes of a comeback.
"We’re trying to establish our passing game and make everything we do perfect," said Ethan Souther, a junior quarterback. "You need to be able to do that with the teams on our schedule."
Both teams have home games next week. Chestatee plays host to White County while East Hall plays host to Lumpkin County.
Chestatee 47, East Hall 14
East Hall 0 0 14 0 - 14
Chestatee 17 17 7 6 - 47
CH - Sweet 3 run (Mills kick)
CH - Grunenefelder 13 pass from E. Souther (Mills kick)
CH - Mills 34 FG
CH - Sweet 3 run (Mills kick)
CH - B. Souther 5 run (Mills kick)
CH - Mills 32 FG
EH - Tanner 55 pass from Gardner (Flores kick)
EH - Morgan 22 pass from Gardner (Flores kick)
CH - Grunenefelder 73 pass from E. Souther (Mills kick)
CH - Brooks 54 int return (kick failed)
First downs 4 10
Rushes-yards 18-5 41-269
Passing yards 152 90
Comp.-Att-Int 5-23-2 3-9-0
Total yards 157 259
Punts-avg. 4-34 2-37.5
Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-2
Penalties-yards 9-60 7-62
Rushing: East Hall, Hopkins 13-11, Nyaude 1-16, Gardner 2-0, Tanner 1-(-5), Dale 1-(-12). Chestatee, B. Souther 11-96, Sweet 12-74, Bezzell 10-54, E. Souther 6-27, Byers 2-7, Chewning 2-1, Poole 1-1.
Passing: East Hall, Gardner 4-19-1, Dale 0-3-1, Tanneer 1-1-0. Chestatee, E. Souther 2-7-0, Chewning 1-2-0.
Receiving: East Hall, Tanner 2-65, Duong 2-61, Morgan 1-28. Chestatee, Grunenefelder 2-86, Moore 1-4.