DALTON, Ga. — In a game that was as 2020 as it could get, Christian Heritage School football coach Jay Poag kept Friday night's nonregion game with Catoosa County's Heritage as simple as he could make it.
Playing without all-state running backs Gage Leonard and Solomon Locke, who are quarantined after COVID-19 contact tracing put them on the sideline for 14 days earlier this week, the Lions (3-1) turned to another all-state performer to carry the offense in a 39-7 win over Heritage.
Evan Lester, a Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen member who normally lines up at receiver on offense, moved to running back and rushed for 115 yards and a pair of first-half touchdowns as the Lions rolled to a 24-0 halftime lead on the way to handed Heritage its first loss in four games to start the season.
"He's the best player on the field, so we felt comfortable putting him back there," Poag said of Lester. "It's been a long week, but I've got an experienced football team, so it's next man up. We tweaked the game plan and really, in my opinion, dominated tonight against a good 4A team."
Instead of attacking from a spread formation, Poag put Lester as a single back and installed two tight ends. The Generals, who were also playing without several starters due to the coronavirus, couldn't adjust to the power look from the Class A private school.
"They like to blitz, so they come from space a lot, so if you spread them out you are doing what they want you to do," Poag said. "We put two big 220-pounders in at tight end and we wanted them to have to play us straight up and it worked because we felt we could handle them up front."
Christian Thomas capped a 65-yard drive with a 1-yard run on the first play of the second quarter and the Generals fumbled the ensuing kickoff, with Josiah Chiesa returning it for a Christian Heritage touchdown and 14-0 lead.
Tucker Jordan followed with the first of his two interceptions of Heritage quarterback Nick Hanson and four plays later Lester broke off a 29-yard touchdown. Lions' quarterback Thomas also added a pair of touchdown passes to Tucker in the second half.
"It was a great effort," Poag said. "Tucker Jordan with two touchdown catches and two interceptions, it was great to see that for him. Our defense was just great all night. We start everything here on defense. We swarmed all night."
Northwest Whitfield 38, Chattooga 14: The Bruins improved to 4-0 as sophomore quarterback Owen Brooker passed for two touchdowns — both to big-play Ray Morrison — and ran for another. Adrian Reyes added touchdown runs of 5 and 25 yards for the Bruins. Leshaun Lester scored both of Chattooga's touchdowns.
Trion 39, Dade County 34: Brantley Willbanks scored on a 6-yard touchdown run with 37 seconds remaining to give first-year coach Sean Patrick his first win. Rob Brown led a Trion rushing attack that amassed 323 yards with 160 on 11 carries, while Willbanks added 76 and two touchdowns and quarterback Connor Deparlier 76 yards.
"It's awesome for our kids," Patrick said. "They deserve success and it's awesome to see their reaction. Connor Deparlier made some big throws, but we didn't have to run it much. We're a young team, with only four seniors, so we knew there would be some challenges, and then we had some injuries that made things a bit more difficult. But, those kids worked hard and were rewarded tonight."
Calhoun 60, Ridgeland 0: The Yellow Jackets routed the Panthers as running back Jerrian Hames scored on touchdown runs of 56, 5 and 18 yards and Christian Lewis threw touchdown passes of 39 to Will Seamons and 70 to Cole Speer, all in the first half. Ridgeland falls to 0-4 and has been outscored 185-19.
LaFayette 43, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 7: The Ramblers earned their first win in three games as quarterback Jaylon Ramsey had 175 yards rushing and three touchdowns (45, 60 and 6 yards) in the first half. Jamario Clements added a scoring run, as did Jacon Zwiger, and Trey Taylor caught a touchdown pass.
Adairsville 38, Murray County 7: Courtney Slocum had three touchdown runs and Chris Roper added a pair of scores as Adairsville opened Region 6-AAA play with a win over the Indians, whose only touchdown came on a Kaleb Jones pass.
Other area scores: Fannin County 48, Southeast Whitfield; Rockmart 42, Coahulla Creek 6.