Sandy Creek celebrates their 25th in historic fashion
by Russell Cooks
In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy declared, “There’s no place like home.” Dorothy is absolutely correct, especially when your home is the “New Battlefield” at Sandy Creek High School. Friday night marked the culmination of several key events to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Sandy Creek, including a 48-6 romp over Morrow.
As soon as you arrived on the campus, you could feel the magic in the air. The tailgate area was packed. You had a tent for the US Army. You had a tent for the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department. There were members of the new Sandy Creek Alumni Association mixing and mingling. And of course, there were several tents for the Sandy Creek Football Boosters. There was an air of expectancy. You could tell that it was going to be a magical night. A special night! A historical night!
After the dedication of the new tour field, the Sandy Creek Patriots went on to dominate the Morrow Mustangs 48-6. The win moves the Patriots to 2-1 on the young season.
The fireworks got started early. Senior Drezyn “Dash” Parson took the opening kickoff and dashed 85 yards for a touchdown. They say that artificial turf is a much faster surface than grass, and it proved to be true. It only took 12 seconds for Parson to record the first touchdown on the newly installed artificial turf.
The Patriot defense got started early as well. Taylor Hodge sacked the quarterback for a loss, and Demetrius Worthy stopped what could have been a huge gain as he flattened the wide receiver just before he turned the corner. Hodge and James Strothers combined to sack the quarterback and forced a Morrow punt.
Kyle Lindsey fielded the punt and handed off to Brian Branch for a reverse and Branch turned it into a 64-yard punt return. Junior quarterback Bryant Walker connected with University of Minnesota commit Javan Hawes for a 14-yard pickup. On the next play, Walker connected with senior Kaleb Slaughter for a 10-yard touchdown.
With 8:38 remaining in the first quarter Sandy Creek led 14-0. It wouldn’t get any better for Morrow from there. On the next Mustang possession, the Creek defense was on point again. This time it was senior Nate Brown on back-to-back stops for losses and a quarterback sack by junior Nick Fulwider that stopped the Morrow drive.
On the punt return, it was Lindsey faking a reverse an returning the ball to the 29-yard line. Walker then connected with Slaughter for a 71-yard bomb, and, after a successful extra point, Sandy Creek led 21-0 with 5:53 remaining in the first quarter.
Asked about the early success of the passing game, Bryant Walker said, “It felt good. It was quick. We knew that their corners played off, so we went with our quick game. I have been working with Kaleb (Slaughter) and Javan (Hawes) on our timing, and it is getting better and better every day. We are really gelling.”
On Morrow’s next possession, it was Nehemiah McIntosh making a stop for loss and Branch making a tackle after a 5-yard gain. TJ Peavy added a major hit to stop the drive and force another Mustang punt.
This time, Morrow got smart and punted the ball out of bounds. Jaelen Greene busted a run for 11 yards on Sandy Creek’s first running play of the game. Next came the moment that everyone was waiting for, as Marvin Hubbard, Jr. broke off a 30-yard gain on his first touch returning from injury. It was called back because of a penalty, but the fans got to see what they wanted to see with the 2016 debut of the League of Running Backs.
On the next play, Walker connected with Hawes for a 24-yard gain, then Greene added six. Walker went back to Hawes for another 12-yard gain. On the next play, it was senior Eric Woods taking it to the house from 14 yards out for a 28-0 lead with 1:18 remaining in the 1st quarter.
The Mustangs’ next possession didn’t go any better. Peavy came up and made another solo stop for a loss, then Peavy and junior Alex Christopher combined for a stop for a loss. On 3rd and 9, senior Isaiah Appling broke up a pass to force another Morrow punt.
Junior Alex Christopher said, “It was good. I think I played really well. The turf wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be. The team energy was great. The fans were great as normal. There was a new energy about the turf. It is the beginning of a new era.”
Lindsey returned the punt 25 yards to the Morrow 35-yard line. Two plays later, it was “Dash” Parson dashing into the end zone from 35-yards out. With 11:29 left in the second quarter, the Patriots led 35-0.
A suspect pass interference gave the Mustangs the ball at the 42-yard line, but Appling combined with junior Kolbi Neal for a stop in the backfield. Strothers added a stop for a 3-yard loss to force another punt by Morrow.
“The team is progressing drastically every game, and I feel like everyone is on board,” said senior cornerback Isaiah Appling. “We have all accepted the challenge that we were given after the first game, and the players are stepping into their roles more effectively.”
With the game in hand, coach Chip Walker started working in some of his younger players. Junior Jordan Clark picked up 17 yards on his first carry. Sophomore quarterback Jamal Lewis connected with sophomore Judah Johnson on a 16-yard pass, then Lewis connected with senior Carlos Christian for a 6-yard completion. On the next play, Lewis threw to Johnson again for a 10-yard gain. Lewis picked up 2 yards on a quarterback keeper, and the next play he threw to freshman Ahmad Jackson for an 11-yard gain. Two plays later, it was Clark with a 4-yard touchdown run to make the score 42-0 with 1:45 remaining in the 2nd quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Mustangs tried a reverse and they fumbled the ball at the 18-yard line. Freshman Rashad Amos picked up 11 yards, then two plays later scored from six yards out. The extra point was no good, and Sandy Creek led 48-0 with 32 seconds remaining in the first half.
Sophomore quarterback Jamal Lewis said, “It felt good to go out and get the win tonight. We have to come back on Monday through Thursday and work on our craft. and get better. We must always strive for continuous improvement, and we must always live ready. You never know when opportunity might present itself.”
After another successful stop by the defense, the Patriot drive started at their own 38-yard line. Amos picked up 16 yards on a running play, then Lewis connected with Jackson for a 4-yard pass. Amos picked up four more yards, but the possession would end with a missed field goal.
On the Mustangs’ next possession, it was senior Aston McNair on a stop for a loss. The Mustangs connected on a long pass into Sandy Creek territory, McIntosh made a bruising tackle to save the touchdown. McNair made another tackle after a 3-yard gain, and after three quarters of play, Sandy Creek led 48-0.
On the next play, freshman Adae Lee made a stop for a loss. The Mustangs connected on a pass to the Sandy Creek two, and two plays later the quarterback snuck into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. After a blocked extra point, the Patriots led 48-6.
On the Patriots next possession, freshman quarterback Matthew Williams came in at the helm with freshman Dealo Parson (Dash2) at running back. Sophomore wide receiver RJ Howard also got some playing time. Dealo Parson picked up 15-yards on three carries.
Bryant Walker led the passing attack completing 5 of 5 passes for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jamal Lewis had an effective night as he completed 5 of 7 passes for 43-yards. The wide receivers were led by Kaleb Slaughter with with 2 catches for 81 yards and 2 touchdowns. Javan Hawes added 3 catches for 58 yards. Freshman Rashad Amos led all rushers with 4 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown. Drezyn Parson led the team with 120 all-purpose yards (85 yards on kickoff returns and 35 yards rushing) and 2 touchdowns.
Asked how it felt to play in a game with his big brother, Dealo Parson said, “It felt good being on the sideline with him because he is having such a breakout year. It also felt good when I got on the field and got to contribute to the success of team. It felt kind of surreal because last year I was a ball boy. Now, I am playing with the big boys, and it became real when I got my first carry.”
The 2-1 Patriots travel to Starr’s Mill to face the 1-2 Panthers in a non-conference on Friday, September 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Fayette County perseveres for 21-18 win over Mundy’s Mill
by Christopher Dunn
The Fayette County Tigers are right where they want to be, finally riding some early season momentum after holding on for a 21-18 road win over the Mundy’s Mill Tigers Friday night. After slow starts in previous years, Fayette County is off to a 2-0-1 start, a much needed change of pace for a squad dead set on a third straight playoff appearance.
“This is what I was hoping for, to start faster than we ever have,” said head coach Mike Davis.
Weaker teams might have rolled over on a tough night. They lost their starting quarterback, Super 12 member Anthonie Powell, early in the game and a defensive leader in Kevin Zachary later in the night. All the while, Mundy’s Mill kept charging, but Fayette would not break.
“I’ve said all along this is a special group,” said Davis. “With the couple of losses that we took tonight, I’m very proud to see them rebound and fight very hard to the end.”
The never-say-die mentality of the Tigers was manifested in the play of Malcolm Easterwood, always a talented weapon who was asked to take over at quarterback following Powell’s injury. He didn’t shy away from the responsibility.
“Malcolm is a special person. He’s a special player,” praised Davis. “He stepped in and took over. We had no doubt with him. We knew all along we could get it done.”
Easterwood scored two touchdowns to spark the offense, but he was quick to deflect the attention onto his teammates.
“I was just really glad I had the support of my teammates. I went in and everybody said ‘Malcolm, you’ve got this,’” said Easterwood. “That’s really what propelled me to do the things I did. I’m thankful for this team and the coaches that are behind me.”
The unsung star of the night was the offensive line of Ja’Von Jackson, Collin Ivins, Askia Richen, Aric Yelverton, and Justin Huggins. The boys in the trenches led the way for 199 yards rushing.
“That’s my line,” beamed Easterwood. “I love them because they’re always going to go hard. I know they’re going to give 100 percent effort, and they’re going to blow people off the ball. That’s just what they do.”
The Tigers first found the end zone on their second offensive possession, a drive that would be bittersweet. Anthonie Powell ran for 10 yards to move the chains, then wowed the crowd and the opposing team when he somehow shook out of a sure sack to hit Reggie Booker for four yards. He was flashing all the electricity that made him a favorite of preseason accolades. Unfortunately he would be tackled awkwardly on another run and leave for the rest of the night with a knee injury, giving way to Easterwood under center.
Easterwood’s first test came on a 4th and inches inside the Mundy’s Mill 30. He pushed ahead for the first down, then capped off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run, taking the ball up the middle, then bouncing around to the outside and past the defense. Savior Steele added the extra point for a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Fayette’s defense was sturdy in the first half, forcing a pair of three-and-outs. Kevin Zachary and Tylar Jordan teamed up for one sack to kill a drive, and Nate Beamon penetrated into the backfield to blow up a 4th-and-inches attempt.
The Tigers hit pay dirt again on their last drive of the half. Corey Andrews started the drive hot, scampering for 14 yards on the first snap. Facing 3rd and 7, Easterwood scorched the defense for 17 yards on a scramble. Jalil Dabney finished it off with a 20-yard sweep around the right end. Aaron Hauck added the extra point for a 14-0 lead.
Mundy’s Mill pushed hard trying to get on the board before the half. They would drive down to just outside the red zone before Fayette’s defense bowed up. A group sack would knock them back to the 30, and James Hawkins would intercept a desperation heave towards the end zone on the final play of the half.
Mundy’s Mill picked up the pace from their late first half surge coming out of the locker rooms. They opened with a 59-yard scoring drive to narrow the gap. Fayette had their chances to turn them away, Karlen Samples picking up a big tackle in the backfield. The touchdown came on a jump ball in the end zone, but the cornerback could not knock it away. Mundy’s Mill would badly miss the extra point attempt, making it a 14-6 game and helping preserve an important margin for Fayette.
Fayette’s ensuing drive stalled at midfield, forcing a punt. A bad snap sailed high over the head of the punter, setting up Mundy’s Mill inside the red zone. They made it count, scoring on a beautifully executed playaction pass that left a receiver wide open for a seven-yard score. Matt McGuire wrecked the two-point conversion attempt, penetrating into the backfield to stop the try for a 14-12 margin.
Fayette’s offense finally got back into gear midway through the fourth quarter. Corey Andrews gave them the spark they badly needed, slicing through the defense for a 50-yard run. Andrews finished the night with 98 yards rushing on only 8 carries. An unsportsmanlike conduct flag tacked onto the play put them into great scoring position. Dabney added a 17-yard run, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Easterwood. The extra point by Hauck would be huge, giving the Tigers a two-score lead at 21-12 with 7:22 left in the game.
The defense followed with a huge stop, taking precious minutes off the clock. Mundy’s Mill would find the end zone once more with 30 seconds left in the game, but their inability to hit extra points or convert for two would leave them in too big a hole to dig out of. Their attempt at an onside kick sailed out of bounds, allowing Fayette to going into victory formation to seal up the 21-18 victory.
Whitewater fends off Banneker Trojans 19-14 for 3-0 start
by Rob Grubbs
Whitewater’s first-year coach Bryan Holley took his undefeated Wildcats on the road Friday night to face an improved Banneker squad, returning home with a 19-14 win.
The Trojans recently snapped a 21-game losing streak with a convincing win over Towers and played scrappy in a loss to Fayette County last week. With region play coming up later this month, the Trojans were a good measuring stick for the team chemistry that Holley is developing in his initial campaign.
Banneker got the ball first. After a strong return of the opening kickoff and facing their first third down situation of the evening, Banneker called a screen pass at midfield. It was obvious the Whitewater defense was prepared for the call as the defensive front flowed into the action. J’Vonne Bradley set the tone for what Banneker would see from the defense all evening as he soared high to intercept the pass.
With possession on their own 45, Whitewater relied on running back Musa Ali to ground out tough yards until the drive stalled at in the red zone. The Cats settled for a Liam Voigt 29-yard field goal for the early 3-0 lead.
After another strong series by the defense, Whitewater got the ball for the second time but quickly found a theme for evening – Inconsistency. A fumble on a handoff exchange gave Banneker great field position but once again the defense held strong and a sack by Cole Benefield brought on another punt from Banneker. This time, the inconsistency came in the form of a muffed punt and great field position for Banneker, who eventually scored on a 1-yard run from Gary Benton Jr. for the 7-3 lead.
Whitewater’s next possession showed promise, but an illegal forward pass erased a big gain, forcing a punt back to Banneker, who was enjoying a significant shift of momentum to their side. On third down, the Banneker quarterback Dionte Bonneau took a direct snap and looked to have significant running room, but coughed up a fumble the Whitewater defense swarmed to for the recovery.
With time dwindling in first half, Whitewater executed an eight-play drive to regain the lead, culminating in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Stone Kasten to Heath Kirkes. With a missed extra point, Whitewater took a 9-7 lead into the half.
Whitewater received the second half kickoff and drove to the Banneker 24 in six plays, retaking the lead with a 41-yard field goal from Voigt to go up 12-7.
The ensuing kickoff turned the game once again as Banneker’s Tarique Dennis went 80 yards to give Banneker first and goal from the 9-yard line, taking the lead 14-12 three plays later on a 6-yard run from Jaquavious Epps.
Whitewater soon forced the turning point of the game. Facing a 3rd and 22 late in the third quarter, Kasten stood strong in the pocket, taking a huge hit right as he let the ball fly, throwing downfield into double coverage. As the Banneker defenders positioned for the sure interception, receiver Christian Vermilyea snatched the ball away and landed with the possession, the first down, and the key moment of the game with the 32-yard reception. The drive was completed three plays later when Kasten found Vermilyea once again for a 15-yard touchdown for the lead that Whitewater would never relinquish.
With the lead secured, the Whitewater defense turned up the intensity through the fourth quarter. After a 31-yard run by Dennis, the Whitewater defense flexed its muscle. When Banneker moved into scoring position, the Whitewater defense was at its best. They forced a punt on this drive, but a fumble on offense put them right back on the field to protect the lead. Twice in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, Banneker had a 1st and 10 inside the Whitewater 15 with the chance to take the late lead. Both times the drive ended in a big tackle for a loss.
Concerning the defensive effort, Holley acknowledged, “Time after time, they played with their backs to the end zone and the game on the line, and they got the job done.”
As the Holley era takes off at Whitewater, it is clear he is building a team identity of tough defense and a solid, ball control running game. While there were some breakdowns on offense and special teams against Banneker, the adversity showed his team what areas need work to establish that identity before the region schedule begins.
“The offense just needs to run the offense,” said Holley.
When you beat a quality opponent on the road without your best game, it speaks to the team’s potential as the games get more important. Whitewater stands at 3-0 for the first time since its inaugural varsity season in 2005 and will face a 1-1-1 Chapel Hill team next week at home. Chapel Hills is fresh off a 1-point loss to Starr’s Mill. This will be the Wildcats’ final tune up before the six-game region 3-AAAAA schedule.
Miscues cost McIntosh in first loss of season, 19-11 to Luella
by Dylan Hynson
The McIntosh Chiefs had visions of a perfect 4-0 start, but the Luella Lions had other ideas. The Chiefs have been on a roll, winning their first three games of the season for the third time in school history. However, they suffered their first defeat Friday night ito Luella at home, 19-11.
“That’s a fine football team that beat us,” head coach Lee Belknap said. “We’ve had trouble against them in the past, but the bottom line is it came down to mistakes. We made too many of them.”
The mistakes started early on as the Chiefs dropped a wide-open pass that could’ve ended in six points. They settled for a punt and senior punter Caleb Podolski coffin cornered the Lions at the 2-yard line. Luella would go on the longest drive of the game, 17 plays and most of the first quarter. The Chiefs defense finally came up with a stop after several third down conversions and watched the Lions miss a field goal to keep the game scoreless.
McIntosh was forced to punt again on their next drive after going three and out, which led to the game’s first points as Luella running back Latrell Murray scored to give the Lions a 6-0 lead.
The Chiefs put together a great offensive series the next drive out, but still failed to score as a fumble right on the goal line gave the Lions back the ball.
“We struggled a little bit offensively,” Belknap said. “Just too many mistakes on critical plays, but we are going to fix that.”
The Chiefs finally hit the scoreboard as Zach Anderson tackled the Lions running back Murray back in the end zone for a safety to make it 6-2 with 8:02 left in the half.
McIntosh would take advantage on their next series after the safety, driving down the length of the field in 11 plays. Junior running back Bradley Ector found a hole and scored from five yards out, but a blocked extra point kept the game close 8-6. The Chiefs would take that score into the locker room, but knew they needed to improve if they wanted to keep the perfect season alive.
“We told them in the locker room that we needed to come out and finish,” Belknap said. “We told them this team was dangerous, and the game wouldn’t be given to us.”
The Chiefs responded in a big way as Chiefs junior cornerback De’Andre Wade picked off the Lions on the first play of the half. McIntosh would go on an 8-play drive resulting in a field goal to increase the lead to 11-6 Chiefs with 7:44 to go in the third.
Luella would be forced to punt and all the momentum was shifted over to the McIntosh side. However, the Chiefs would be forced to punt after a critical dropped pass near the 15-yard line.
The Chiefs needed to come up with a big stop with a slim lead. On third down near the Chief 40-yard line, a McIntosh thought they pulled down an interception on a jump ball. The referee instead signaled the ball was caught by a Lion receiver for a first down. The next play, Murray scored again to give the Lions a 12-11 lead after a missed two-point conversion.
“The rulebook says if the ball is tied up, then it goes to the offense,” Belknap said. “We’ve just got to come up and make that play. We need to come away with it next time.”
That play would turn out to be the start of an unfortunate roll for the Chiefs as they fumbled on their next possession to give the ball right back to Luella. Murray would score his third touchdown of the night on the next drive to make it 19-11 Lions. The Chiefs would commit two crucial turnovers on their final two drives to end the ball game and take their first defeat of the season 19-11 to Luella.
“I think it was more momentum lost than it was fatigue near the end of the game,” Belknap said. “We are a football team that’s in great shape, we just didn’t have the momentum on our backs to give us the push we needed.”
McIntosh will get a bye this week before kicking off region play against Riverdale, a much improved team in the region. The Chiefs are fully aware of this and will look for a big win.
“We are going to have our hands full with Riverdale,” Belknap said. “The good news is we have time to prepare for them, get a few guys healthy, so we are going get to work and prepare for a good football team.”