As the sun tucked into the night sky, the gridiron heated up a football scrimmage between the Sandy Creek Patriots and the Fayette County Tigers. Both teams were looking to evaluate their roster, implement some new plays and gain momentum heading into the first game.
Sandy Creek brought their unique athleticism to Tiger Stadium as they geared up for a return trip to the playoffs, after sitting out last season. Head coach Brett Garvin has preached focus and execution all summer. Players have bought in with several looked leaner and stronger at first glance.
Fayette County head coach Mike Davis had a similar message. He wanted to get everyone in the scrimmage and see where his team was at. He also sat out nine of his starters to prepare for the regular season.
While Sandy Creek won the scrimmage 42-0, the score doesn’t really matter. The main goal was seeing the teams in live action and finding areas to improve in the coming weeks.
“I saw some bright spots and things we needed to work on,” Davis said. “I am not concerned about the score and I told them that. It was a great opportunity to get some playing time and get the jitters out.”
Here are five observations from the Sandy Creek vs. Fayette football scrimmage on Friday night.
The Patriots wasted no time showcasing their new spread offense. They took deep shots down the field and got the ball in the hands of their playmakers. Junior receiver Ahmad Jackson emerged as the No.1 option in the passing attack and proved unstoppable at times.
In the first quarter, he took a quick 5-yard slant, from junior quarterback Matt Williams, and turned it into a 70-yard reception. He also hauled in a 40-yard catch down the sideline from senior quarterback Jamal Lewis.
When Jackson wasn’t cooking, the Patriots turned to junior running back Rashad Amos. If there is one thing to say about Amos–he is SPECIAL. He had over 100 total yards in the first quarter and broke off some devastating runs. He scored three touchdowns against a tough Fayette defense.
His first touchdown was a 57-yard touchdown up the middle, he followed that by snagging a 38-yard receiving touchdown on a wheel route and he capped his night with a 20-yard scamper in the second quarter.
After the game, Garvin couldn’t help but to smile at the mention of Amos’ name. He will be a good one for Sandy Creek this season.
“He has run that route a million times and when he came off to the sideline, I told him that ‘I got you dude,'” Garvin said.
The offensive display is an encouraging sign for the Patriots. They have a tough schedule against the likes of Cartersville, LaGrange and Chapel Hill in region play.
“We have been preaching all year to focus, focus, focus,” Garvin said. “I told them that if you do your 111, we will be pretty good.”
The ongoing battle for the Patriots’ starting quarterback job has reached a new level. Prior to the game, it was determined that Williams would start the scrimmage based on his analytical numbers from the team’s QBR metrics system. He had a slightly higher edge than Lewis this offseason.
However, both guys didn’t disappoint against Fayette. Williams looked crisp getting the offense in and out of the huddle. He went 4-for-5 in the first quarter for 61 yards passing. He threw a touchdown and also rushed for a 10-yard touchdown. He played in the first and third quarters, before Lewis took over in the second and final quarter.
Lewis was sharp as he displayed a strong touch on the deep ball. He targeted Jackson and senior R.J. Howard a lot. Lewis also hit senior Nick Toomer for a 31-yard touchdown that was a perfect back shoulder read.
Garvin didn’t say who would open the regular season as the starter. He said that would be determined by tonight’s film and next week’s practice.
“We tried to get them equal time tonight,” Garvin said. “We want it to be as fair as it can be and let the best kid win it.”
The Tigers’ backfield stable will be an impressive thing to watch this season. They have senior Caleb Pressley, who transferred from Our Lady of Mercy, senior Jamal Cook and sophomore Deshaun Pullen that can all handle carries. Pressley didn’t play against Sandy Creek, but his absence opened up carries for Cook and Pullen.
Both looked sharp in reading the hole and hitting it with impact. Cook had some hard fought yards against a stingy Patriots defensive front. He pushed the pile forward and got a couple first downs. Pullen impressed late in the game with a tough running style.
Davis said that the running backs will be a key point for the Tigers this season. He was happy with their effort, but knows there is still some work to do.
“I thought they ran hard and did some things well,” Davis said. “Having a couple of guys in the stable is nice and to know you have some guys in there. I think that we got to get better at that position and I think that was a great opportunity for them to get some reps.”
4.) Young players showcase potential in second half
On both squads, they turned to several freshman and sophomores to close out the game. Many players left an impression, including Fayette’s Pullen, freshman quarterback Dustin Waters, and Sandy Creek’s freshman Miles Thornton.
Each player turned heads with some raw potential. Waters had a couple nice deep passes that on target. It just happened that a receiver missed it or a great defensive play was made. Thornton was showed he can play all over the field. He got some reps at quarterback and also caught a 61-yard touchdown.
“We got a lot of young kids that played well,” Garvin said. “We got talent and I think our eighth grade bunch is really talented. I am excited for these kids.”
Davis agreed. He was proud of his young group as well.
“I like that as those kids were just in middle school last year,” Davis said. “They got out there and they competed. I am proud of them.”
5.) Special teams is coming around
Both teams experimented with a couple players out of their normal position on Friday night. Sandy Creek had Toomer as a punter and he did an adequate job. He shanked his first punt, but rebounded in the game. He is slated to get the first shot at punting in the season’s opener. Fayette also had some new players back to return kicks. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod in Week 1.
Sandy Creek gets a weird bye week to open the season and will face Whitewater on August 24. Fayette will open at home against Hampton High School next Friday.