September 30, 2013

Friday Night Rewind: Cats won't have Chastain on Friday

During its first four games this season, Dalton High School’s football team used a two-quarterback system as both sophomore Jase Chastain and junior Payton Veraldi saw significant playing time for the Catamounts.

Dalton (2-2) will move on to Sub-region 7B-4A play with just one on the field.

Chastain suffered a serious leg injury during the second quarter of the Cats’ 30-17 win at Cass on Friday. In other area games involving area teams this past week, Christian Heritage won 42-21 at Mount Zion-Carroll, Coahulla Creek lost 41-3 at Cartersville, Murray County fell 56-13 to visiting Chattooga, North Murray was edged at home by Sonoraville, 38-35, Northwest Whitfield beat River Ridge 54-14 in Tunnel Hill and Southeast Whitfield was beaten 42-28 by visiting Cedartown.

Chastain’s injury happened on first-and-10 at the Cass 12-yard line with 1:44 remaining in the first half. On a designed run, Chastain went to the right. He injured his right leg either from planting and cutting, spinning or a Cass defender making a tackle. Chastain walked off the field with help but was taken from the sideline on a stretcher and did not return to the game, with play stopping for about 10 minutes.

After Friday’s game, Dalton coach Matt Land said he did not have any details about the injury, but in a text to The Daily Citizen after midnight he wrote that Chastain had been taken to Hamilton Medical Center and would have surgery this past Saturday.

On Sunday evening, Land said he could not give details about the injury because of privacy considerations but did say that Chastain would not be able to play in this week’s sub-region opener against Ridgeland at Harmon Field.

In three games — against Ringgold, Calhoun and Cass — Chastain and Veraldi rotated possession at quarterback, with Land electing to use each based on the situation during the Cats’ win against Gilmer two weeks ago.

Chastain was 2-for-3 with 98 yards passing and a touchdown in Friday’s game before the injury. Veraldi finished the night 5-for-6 for 56 yards passing.

• Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag has seen his team bitten by turnovers that have been the difference in winning and losing a game.

But after their latest win, perhaps the turnover genies are favoring the Lions (4-1).

Junior linebacker Spencer Robbins returned a botched end-around pitch for a score and recovered a bad snap on a punt in the end zone for another score. Those 14 points were crucial as the Lions’ offense, which had seen quarterback Trevor Brown throw five touchdowns in a 41-0 win over Fellowship Christian the week prior, struggled against the Eagles.

“For the first time this year, we struggled a little bit offensively,” Poag said. “Give credit to Mount Zion for having a good game plan, but we didn’t look very sharp. But the defense carried us in the first half, and the scores by the defense were the difference in the game.”

The Lions have been on the other side of that equation.

In a season opening 35-28 loss to Model, Christian Heritage had two of their turnovers returned for scores, and Poag said that was the key difference in three losses in the 2012 season as the Lions narrowly missed the state playoffs during their first year of Georgia High School Association competition.

• Despite a sloppy, turnover-riddled 0-2 start to Region 5-3A play, Coahulla Creek (1-4) can get back on track and back to .500 in league play through the next two weeks.

The Colts’ latest league loss came to Cartersville, which was ranked No. 2 in last week’s Georgia Sports Writers Association Class 3A poll. The first league game for the Colts was a loss to Sonoraville, which is now 2-0 in region play, along with Cartersville and Ringgold.

The schedule should get a bit easier for Coahulla Creek, though.

The Colts host Gordon Central (0-5) on Friday and then have on open date, giving them two weeks to prepare for Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (2-3), which only has victories against the winless programs at Gordon Central and Heritage-Catoosa.

To leave that stretch with two more wins, Coahulla Creek must end its turnover trouble. After taking a 3-0 lead Friday against the Purple Hurricanes, the Colts recovered an onside kick but turned the ball back to their opponents on the next play. Coahulla Creek had another turnover on the next possession, giving a talented team more than it needed to quickly pull away.

• Murray County (1-4) coach Chad Brewer knows his defense had difficulty slowing down Chattooga’s offense, which amassed 338 yards rushing Friday.

“I don’t know if it’s a personnel thing or a scheme thing,” Brewer said after the game. “We’ll have to look at the film.”

But you can easily find some bright spots on Murray County’s defense in the form of Bailey Rogers, especially in the third quarter of Friday’s loss.

Rogers tackled elusive Chattooga tailback Tevin Shropshire for a 3-yard loss on Chattooga’s first drive of the third quarter. Up to that point, Shropshire had gained 173 yards rushing. Later, a Murray County fumble recovered by Chattooga gave it the ball at Murray’s 36-yard line. But on first down, Rogers showed up big again, stopping Chattooga quarterback Isaac Foster for no gain.

Meanwhile, Murray County’s offense showed heart and didn’t hesitate to gamble.

Murray County took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter thanks in part to quarterback Justin Smith taking a fourth-down snap (instead of punter Spencer Baggett) and racing 24 yards for a first down. Murray County went for it on fourth down on five other occasions but only converted once late in the second quarter when Smith dashed for 31 yards on fourth-and-two.

Three plays later and trailing 28-13, Murray County faced fourth down again but failed to convert as Smith’s pass in the end zone for Chavita Perez sailed out of reach.

For the game, Smith completed 19 of 30 passes for 178 yards. He was intercepted once and threw two touchdown passes. Smith also rushed for 93 yards on 23 carries.

Baggett caught nine passes from Smith for 77 yards, with most of them passes to the flat that put his speed and quickness to good use.

“Our quarterback gets better every game,” Brewer said. “And our offensive coordinator (Jeff Williams) does a real good job.”

• North Murray (1-4) kept pace and battled with resilient Sonoraville, but the Mountaineers couldn’t come up with key defensive stops in the fourth quarter to squeak out a much-needed Region 5-3A win at home.

The home crowd was on its feet in the waning moments as the Mountaineers rallied from 10 points down to cut the lead to three with 18 seconds to play in the fourth. A deep pass by quarterback Hinton McConkey toward the end zone from the Mountaineers’ 45 didn’t connect with five seconds left, and a Phoenix sack ended the game as the visitors stormed the field.

Sonoraville bruised the defense for 350 yards on the ground, and at times the Mountaineers looked like they were caught on their heels.

“They had a lot of success tonight with the run,” North Murray coach David Gann said. “We didn’t do a good enough job getting people to the football. Our kids had a lot of up-and-down moments. At times we played good on defense and at times we played good on offense. They had a good scheme, which forced us to get out of our stuff that we like to do and we had to spread them out just because they had so many people in the box.”

Three bright spots for North Murray were McConkey and Payton Swilling, both juniors, and senior fullback John Chastain.

McConkey paced the offense, throwing for 215 yards and three touchdowns on 21 of 35 passing while gaining 89 yards on 15 carries. McConkey’s favorite target, Swilling, caught two touchdown passes and tallied 87 yards on nine catches. Chastain led the team in rushing with 91 yards on just four carries. He broke free for two long touchdown runs, one for 51 yards and the other a 35-yarder that tied the game three minutes into the third quarter.

• While much has been made of the prowess of the Northwest (4-0) defense in creating turnovers and the attention of the eye-popping passing yardage of the Bruins’ spread offense, one of the things overlooked has been balance.

In the win over River Ridge, quarterback Caleb Shiflett got the headlines with his five-touchdown passing performance, which set a single-game program record, Bruins coach Josh Robinson said. Shiflett finished with 333 yards passing on 17 of 22 attempts.

But it wasn’t all about the passing game.

The running game for the Bruins rolled up 207 yards, with Jacob Webb scoring on a pair of touchdown runs and finishing with 121 yards on seven carries. For the game, Northwest racked up more than 500 yards of total offense.

The offensive numbers look even more balanced when you consider one of the Bruins’ plays that looks like a run because the forward pass is so quick it can be perceived as a pitch.

But none of the Bruins are picky about numbers as long as they have the bigger ones on the scoreboards. Northwest will look for its first 5-0 start to a season since 2007 when it travels to Heritage for its Sub-region 7B-4A opener Friday.

• Even in the face of a loss, Southeast coach Sean Gray liked what he saw in his players’ performance — and in the bigger picture, he likes the direction his program is headed.

Southeast started 2-0 for the first time in more than 20 years but hasn’t won since. Still, the effort was there against Cedartown, which entered the game as the ninth-ranked team in the Class 4A poll.

“We raised expectations,” Gray said. “We put high expectations on the kids. We work hard, they work hard. We expect to win. We expect to compete. We put the work in to get it done. The kids have heart.”

The Raiders led 21-20 at the half on the strength of a balanced offense. Southeast put the first points of the game on the board with an 8-play, 56-yard drive that featured six runs and two passes. Senior Rhett Harper capped that drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak. He added another 1-yard scoring run and a touchdown reception, all in the first quarter.

The defense did its best to contain star running back Nick Chubb, but he proved to be too much to handle, especially in the second half as the Raiders defense tired.

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