When asked what was the best part of Friday night’s rivalry game between the Chestatee High and North Hall High football teams, War Eagles head coach Shaun Conley immediately pointed to the scoreboard at War Eagle Stadium.
And for the first time in 12 seasons, the numbers were immensely on the home team’s side.
The senior offensive tandem of quarterback Storm Yarbrough and running back Nick Lyles shined in the regular-season debut as the War Eagles cruised to a 42-12 rout of North Hall, their second win over the Trojans in the last 16 meetings since both schools split back in 2002.
With friendships across both sidelines stemming from outside of football and dating back to youth football years, it wasn’t too hard for Conley to motivate his kids leading up to this highly anticipated opener.
“That’s a big one there for us,” a smiling Conley said. “It’s great for the program to get off on the right foot, no matter who we play. We wanted to beat North Hall with our rivalry. Hopefully now, we can make it a rivalry, and it’s special.”
The spread attack of Chestatee (1-0) gave North Hall (0-1) fits from the start as the War Eagles sought payback for a heartbreaking 35-28 loss last season. The War Eagles accrued 420 yards of total offense and scored on five consecutive drives to ensure their first win over their cross-county foes since 2005.
Yarbrough and Lyles accounted for a bigger pieces of that puzzle. Yarbrough completed 10 of 13 throws for 198 yards and two long touchdowns, and he added another 77 on the ground that included a 12-yard touchdown scramble in the third quarter. It was the War Eagles’ fifth score of the night.
Senior wideout Jacob Goodall also stood out, hauling in four passes for 103 yards.
“That’s our goal. Going in, we really wanted to be balanced, where people just couldn’t key on Nick, or just couldn’t key on Storm,” Conley said. “I said time and time again, Storm’s done a great job in the past month, month-in-a-half. And I’m so proud of him.”
Yarbrough simply added execution was on Chestatee’s side.
“It’s what we’ve been expecting. We should have been doing it for the past four years. I mean, it’s just a great feeling. Ain’t no other feeling like it,” Yarbrough said. “ ... We came here with a gameplan, and we executed perfectly. That’s all we had to do. I don’t see any outcome change if we do that all year.”
Linebacker Reggie James (two sacks, forced fumble) headlined a Chestatee defense that held North Hall’s contrasting Wing-T attack well at bay for most of the game and forced a pair of turnovers on downs. The Trojans were able to find the end zone only once right before the half on a misdirection run by Noah Holman, and once more with less than a minute left as Payton Mavity scored on a 30-yard scamper.
“Our kids played their hearts out,” Conley said. “Our defense — woo, I’m telling you, I’m proud of those suckers.”
Last year’s 1,300-yard back Nick Lyles (12 carries, 106 rushing yards, four total touchdowns) opened the game with a 25-yard scamper, and it was mostly Yarbrough from there. He started his senior campaign with two big pass plays, the first to James for an 11-yard pickup to Chestatee’s 44-yard line. His second was to Lyles on a quick swing pass in the backfield, with Lyles taking care of the rest for a 32-yard touchdown to put the War Eagles on the board just minutes into the game.
Yarbrough was nearly perfect for the half, completing his first nine attempts for 193 yards. Yarbrough’s eighth completion turned into the host’s most explosive play before intermission as he connected with freshman Christian Charles off the play-action deep downfield.
Charles bypassed a defender up the middle and ran into the end zone to put the War Eagles up 21-0 less than four minutes into the second quarter.
Meanwhile, North Hall failed to do much in response. The Trojans’ first score, resulting from a 12-play drive, was the only time they surpassed midfield in the first half. Chestatee got a pair of sacks from James and junior nose tackle Daniel Briseno, and a fumble recovery from Matthew Jarrard set up Chestatee fourth scoring drive.
The 11-play drive was capped by a Lyles 1-yard plunge.
The non-region slate continues for both teams next week. North Hall hosts Flowery Branch, while Chestatee welcomes in East Hall. Both games will be a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.