CHATSWORTH, Ga. - It may be early, but the Region 5-AAA football standings have an unusual look after two weeks of league play. The Sonoraville Phoenix earned their second consecutive region win Friday night, downing North Murray 38-35 behind an explosive ground game.
Senior tailback Andrew Slaton rushed for 213 yards and two touchdowns while sophomore quarterback Cody Long, in just his second start, had 153 yards and three scores. Long's play, after a 200-yard rushing night a week ago, affirmed what his coach already knew.
"You know, you worry about the second start," Roger Gentry said. "How would he respond tonight? Well, he did it again, and right now we've got something working with Cody and Andrew Slaton and our line."
The Phoenix (2-3, 2-0) responded with two touchdowns after the Mountaineers (1-4, 0-2) tied the game at 21 on John Chastain's 36-yard run, the fullback's second long score of the game. Slaton, the reigning Georgia Class AAA 100-meter champion, displayed that speed and good balance on the drive, ripping off runs of 13, 11, 13 and 8 to get the ball to the 22. Long punched it in from 4 yards out, capping a 70-yard, 12-play drive.
The Sonoraville defense produced a stop on the ensuing drive, stopping the Mountaineers on downs at the North Murray 45. Six plays later, Slaton gave the Phoenix a 35-21 lead with a 6-yard run around left end on the final quarter's first play. North Murray, behind strong-armed quarterback Hinton McKonkey, answered right back, as he hit Jordan Adams from 3 yards out with 9:55 to play.
Long then made the game's biggest play. Facing a third-and-10 from the Sonoraville 24, he found Bevin Harris for a 13-yard gain, his only pass of the second half. Long and Slaton split carries as the drive reached the North Murray 18 before stalling, but Junior Solis made it a 10-point game with a 35-yard field goal with 4:19 left.
The Mountaineers got within three when McKonkey passed to Payton Swilling for an 8-yard score with 18 seconds to play, then recovered the onside kick. However, a sack on second down after a long incompletion ended the game.
"I said this last week, but our kids are unbelievable. They were very well prepared to play hard tonight," Gentry said. "We had three major injuries tonight and we had several second-team guys that filled in. Our offense moved it all night and the line was really good. This is a big win for us.
"Let's be serious: In this region you are looking at that fourth [playoff] spot, but if something good were to happen down the road, you might get even higher. To win these last two after starting 0-3 is unbelievable."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.