Chattooga hopes to run past Rabun County in second round of GHSA football state playoffs

Chattooga hopes to run past Rabun County in second round of GHSA football state playoffs

November 16th, 2018 by Lindsey Young in Sports - Preps

Ridgeland's Terrance Roberts (6) and Ryan Frost (14) celebrate Roberts' takeaway during the Panthers' game against Heritage on Sept. 21.

Ridgeland's Terrance Roberts (6) and Ryan Frost (14)...

Photo by Erin O. Smith /Times Free Press.

The numbers alone are enough to scare most teams, but the way Chattooga High School football coach Charles Hammon sees it, his Indians' chances of winning tonight at Rabun County in the second round of the GHSA Class AA state playoffs comes down to one basic thing.

"They will have to want it a little more than the other bunch," Hammon said. "It doesn't matter if you practice in an indoor facility or out in the mud or what the numbers say — and they do have some crazy numbers. Most of the time it comes down to effort."

Rabun's Wildcats have won 10 consecutive games since a three-point loss to Bremen in their opener, and as freshman quarterback Gunner Stockton has progressed, the offense has exploded. Stockton enters the game with more than 3,000 yards of total offense and is responsible for 46 touchdowns this season.

He is hardly a one-man gang, though. Running back Brison Beck has 1,238 yards and 19 touchdowns, and receivers Braxton Hicks and Austin Jones have combined for nearly 1,600 yards. Each had three touchdown catches a week ago.

"They do a lot of things right, they play hard and they don't beat themselves," Hammon said. "They run a lot of RPO (run-pass option) stuff, the counter, and they throw it where you aren't. We'll have to play fast.

"They are good, but I really like this team. Minus the Rockmart game, we've played lights out all year long, and I don't expect anything different Friday."

The Indians (9-2) have the top rushing offense in Class AA behind the dynamic duo of sophomore E.J. Lackey (1,041 yards, eight touchdowns) and freshman LaShaun Lester (984 yards, 15 touchdowns). Athlete Devin Price, who lines up all over the field offensively, has 505 rushing yards and 308 receiving.

"Our two young backs are a lot of fun to watch and coach," Hammon said. "It's unusual to have two 1,000-yard rushers out of the I-formation. They are splitting time, basically, and they are two totally different backs. LaShaun Lester is 5-10, 210 pounds and is more of a powerful runner. E.J. is 5-10, 180 and is a little more of a speedster."

The teams are familiar playoff foes. Rabun won 49-6 last year in the first round over a Chattooga team that had to replace all but a handful of starters off the 2016 state quarterfinal team and prevailed 24-20 in 2014.

"They took it to us pretty good last year after we started the game with two drives that got inside the 10 and got no points," Hammon said. "Hopefully we can put it together this week."

In other games involving northwest Georgia teams:

CLASS AAAA

Ridgeland (8-3) at Cartersville (11-0): Ridgeland's Panthers had their best defensive game of the season in last week's 34-14 first-round win over Flowery Branch, getting four sacks from linebacker Terrance Roberts, causing seven turnovers and holding the Falcons 20 points under their scoring average.

They will need all that and more tonight against second-ranked Cartersville, which is doing just fine with quarterback Trevor Lawrence now at Clemson. Junior quarterback Tee Webb has passed for 2,263 yards and 28 touchdowns this year, while running back Marcus Gary has 1,023 yards and 14 scores and three receivers have more than 350 yards, including 6-foot-5 tight end Jackson Lowe, who has committed to Tennessee.

Ridgeland will rely heavily on junior running Jordan Blackwell, who had 151 yards and three touchdowns last week, and new quarterback Nathan Carver, whose presence has allowed Tanner Hill to move to receiver. Hill, A'zavier Blackwell and Stephon Walker will have to win battles downfield to loosen the Hurricanes' defense.

CLASS AAA

Lovett (6-5) at Calhoun (11-0): These two schools often meet in various sports in the postseason, though this is the first matchup in football since 2009.

Lovett's Lions are playing their best ball of the season. In a 40-7 win over Morgan County last week, quarterback Blaine McAllister passed for 200 yards and a pair of scores, including a 71-yarder to Nick Jackson, and the Lions racked up 521 yards of total offense. Running back K.J. Wallace, who has 800 total yards, is the Atlanta program's top threat.

Calhoun's defense dominated first-round foe Fannin County, forcing five first-half turnovers in a 55-17 win. Scoring machine Zack Fuller had three touchdowns, giving him 25 for the season, while quarterback Gavin Gray passed the 2,000-yard mark and had two touchdown passes. Receivers Brannon Spector and Luke Moseley are matchup nightmares for opponents, while the defense, led by Clemson commitments Spector and linebacker Davis Allen, is aggressive and known for sure tackling.

CLASS A PUBLIC

Trion (8-3) at Schley County (8-2): Trion's Bulldogs rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit to edge Wilcox County last week. Senior running back Hagen Willingham is one of the area's top playmakers, and his 153 yards gave him more than 1,400 for the season. He's joined in the backfield by fullback Braden Johnson, Chris Pace and Bryce Wallin in the run-heavy offense, but quarterback Lincoln Maddux will have to make some plays through the air against an aggressive defense that blitzes on most snaps.

Schley, which received a bye in the first round, is also a run-first team led by running backs Tra Simpson (1,125 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Zamon Ross (809 yards, 13 touchdowns).

The Bulldogs have struggled against speedy teams, so sealing the edges defensively will be a key.

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.


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