0913WHmstephensAUDWest Hall high running back Marquise Stephens talks about the Spartans 27-0 win against Gilmer on Friday night in Oakwood.
0913WHnewtonAUDWest Hall Coach Mike Newton talks about his unbeaten Spartans 27-0 win against Gilmer on Friday night in Oakwood.
OAKWOOD—It’s been a while since the West Hall High football team started its season 3-0.
It was seven years ago, when Atlanta Falcons tight end Martrez Milner still graced a Spartans jersey, that they came this far unbeaten.
West Hall (3-0) entered that class of elite Spartan teams with a 27-0 shutout against Gilmer on Friday night in Oakwood.
“I’m proud of their effort,” Spartans coach Mike Newton said. “We had a lot of work to do after the first game and I’m proud that we’re 3-0, but we still have a long way to go.”
West Hall played with efficiency on both sides of the ball, with the offense generating 447 total yards, while limiting the Bobcats to 226 yards, including 93 through the air.
“Gilmer runs a single wing and we were worried we would have problems with all the misdirection,” Newton said. “The defense still did a great job shutting them down.”
West Hall was on the wrong end of a penalty-stricken night, though, losing 55 yards on seven penalties. Gilmer had four penalties equaling 20 yards.
“Offensively, we should’ve had 17 more points in the first half, Newton said. “With all those penalties, that’s going to hurt us against a good team.”
The Spartans were led by their primary offensive weapons, Marquise and Shunquez Stephens. Marquise, a senior, rushed for 164 yards on 12 carries while his brother, Shunquez, completed 11 passes for 241 yards and three touchdown passes.
“I have to give credit to the defense, but the offense played great tonight too,” Marquise Stephens said. “Everybody played well.”
West Hall opened the game in explosive form, scoring on the first play when Marquise Stephens ran 63 yards to give the Spartans a six-point lead after the PAT was missed. Stephens had 131 rushing yards in the first half.
“I just ran the ball and got the touchdown,” Stephens said.
Stephens’ brother led the West Hall offense on its second score of the night.
Shunquez Stephens connected with open receiver Terrell Penland for a 51-yard touchdown play to give the Spartans a 13-0 lead.
West Hall ran into trouble when Shunquez Stephens’ pass attempt was intercepted in the end zone by Gilmer’s Joe Rigdon.
But the Bobcats were unable to capitalize on the turnover when Penland countered with an interception of his own on the following drive.
Kicker Scott Eichler then narrowly missed a 41-yard field goal late in the first half in an attempt to increase his team’s lead to16.
West Hall’s run-stopping defense remained in control for the majority of the half, droping Gilmer in the backfield five times and limiting the Bobcats to 48 rushing yards on 18 carries. The closest the Bobcats came to scoring in the half was a drive that stopped at West Hall’s 32-yard line.
Gilmer was also limited to 72 passing yards the first half, but it included a 44-yard reception by Jonathan Henson, who led the Bobcats with 64 receiving yards on the night.
The Spartans opened the third quarter with Caleb Stewart’s interception on the first play of the half, but wouldn’t score again until late in the third quarter, when they marched down the field as part of a three-first down drive, ending in Shunquez Stephens’ second touchdown pass of the night to Gibson.
He connected with Gibson again late in the fourth quarter, this time for a 72-yard touchdown.
Gibson finished the night with 135 receiving yards and two touchdowns on five receptions.
“Gibson has the speed and the height to kill defenders,” Stephens said. “Even if the defenders are tall, he can get by them.”
West Hall goes on the road to attempt a fourth straight win when the Spartans visit White County at 7:30 p.m. Friday.