September 7, 2013

Raiders sloppy but perfect

Chris Whitfield
chriswhitfield@daltoncitizen.com

— For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, Southeast Whitfield High School’s football team is 2-0.

The Raiders held Gordon Central to just 9 yards of rushing and 51 yards of total offense to make up for a shaky night on the offensive side of the ball and take a 17-6 win over the Warriors on Friday at Raider Stadium. It is the first time since 1989 that Southeast has started a year undefeated after the first two games.

“It feels absolutely great to be 2-0,” senior wide receiver Abram Stanley said. “All of the hard work we put in during the offseason, all of the work in the weight room and all of the time in practice sweating and working, it has all paid off to be 2-0. It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but we will take it.”

It was ugly on both sides of the field, but compared to the offensive stats for Gordon Central (0-2), the Raiders appeared dominant. Southeast had 51 carries for 183 yards, and quarterback Rhett Harper bounced back from an 0-for first half to complete 5 of 8 passes for 60 yards in the second half.

The Raiders had five fumbles — they lost a pair — and shot themselves in the foot with 75 yards worth of penalties. But Gordon Central could manage nothing against the Raiders’ defense, and three fumble recoveries and an interception aided the Southeast cause.

“Way too many mental mistakes, way too many penalties and I think that just about everyone who touched the ball had a chance to fumble it away,” Southeast coach Sean Gray said. “It wasn’t pretty, but we are 2-0 for the first time in 24 years. Mentally we weren’t very crisp, but we got the win, and we will take it.”

Neither team was sharp, and nothing on offense was working for either side.

Gordon Central fumbled on its second series of the game, giving Southeast prime field position at the Warriors’ 29. But the Raiders stalled, and Gordon Central’s Jacob Mitchell stuffed tailback Blake Foster for a 2-yard loss to turn the ball over on downs.

But Southeast got the ball right back with a three-and-out on defense and took over at its own 39. Tyler Brown took over at running back as the Raiders went into their spread package and rolled off four runs for 59 yards. Harper then snuck over from the 1-yard line, Jonathon Sanchez tacked on the extra point and the Raiders led 7-0 with 1:06 left in the first quarter.

Another three-and-out by the Southeast defense was followed by a partially blocked punt by Austin Allen, giving the Raiders field position on the Warriors’ 37.

Brown pounded the ball down to the 13, but the Raiders couldn’t get much farther and had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Sanchez and a 10-0 lead with 8:47 in the second quarter.

Gordon Central got its first first down of the game on its next possession, but neither team made anything happen on offense the remainder of the half. However, the Warriors were able to create a play to stay in the game.

Linebacker Nate Mays tipped the ball out of quarterback Will Swantic’s hand in the Raiders’ spread package, and Mays raced 50 yards for the lone score for the Warriors.

In the second half, the Raiders tacked on the only other score of the game on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Harper to Colter Faith. The scoring play capped off a 10-play, 50-yard drive.