The Daily Citizen
Even with wins in the first four games this season, Northwest Whitfield High School football coach Josh Robinson wasn’t always happy with his team’s overall performances.
The Bruins would have good first halves, then a letdown in the final two quarters.
There wasn’t a letdown Friday as Northwest opened its Sub-region 7B-4A schedule at Heritage-Catoosa. The Bruins won 49-7 — they scored all of their points in the first half and Heritage’s touchdown was scored with Northwest’s freshman squad on the field in the fourth quarter — to remain undefeated with this week’s rivalry matchup with Dalton looming and hand the Generals their 15th straight loss.
The Catamounts (3-2, 1-0) will enter Friday’s game at Bruin Stadium on the strength of a three-game winning streak, including a 28-0 victory against Ridgeland last Friday to start Sub-region 7B-4A play. In other games this past Friday, Christian Heritage (5-1, 2-0 Sub-region 6A-A) picked up its fifth straight win by beating Gordon Lee 35-0 in Chickamauga, Coahulla Creek (2-4, 1-2 Region 5-3A) snapped a four-game losing streak by topping visiting Gordon Central 14-6, North Murray (1-5, 0-3 Region 5-3A) fell 30-20 at Adairsville and Southeast Whitfield (3-2, 1-0 Sub-region 7B-4A) used a strong second half for a 31-17 win at LaFayette.
As for Northwest, the Bruins finally gave a start-to-finish performance that matched the decisive results on the scoreboard.
Contrast that with a 54-14 win against River Ridge on Sept. 27 in Tunnel Hill, when the Bruins were up 28-0 at halftime only to see the Knights rattle off 14 points in the third quarter. Nothing of the sort happened against Heritage.
“I’m proud of our guys for not letting up,” Robinson said. “I think the River Ridge game woke us up. We had one bad drive after halftime, but since then we’ve played really well. That’s all I can ask of them.”
Northwest’s offense was impressive and efficient in the first half. During the first half, Bruins junior quarterback Caleb Shiflett had five touchdown passes — three went to Tevin McDaniel during the first quarter, when McDaniel also returned an interception for a touchdown — and 174 yards passing. Shiflett’s five touchdown passes tied the school’s single-game mark he had set against Ridgeland.
Senior running back Jacob Webb added to the efficiency as picked up 80 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
• All season, Christian Heritage’s offense has been scoring points in bunches and building a scary passing attack that is leading the area in yardage.
But it would at their own peril that opponents forget about the Lions’ impressive work on defense.
Christian Heritage has pitched three shutouts this season — the only other teams in Murray or Whitfield counties with shutouts in 2013 are Dalton (two) and Northwest (one) — and has allowed only 30 points since losing 35-28 to Model in a turnover-filled season opener.
The Lions have already bettered their mark of two shutouts in 2012, when they allowed 17.5 points per game. Through six games last year — against the same opponents they’ve seen this season — the Lions’ opponents averaged 16.2 points against them. This season, the Lions’ defense is allowing an average of 10.8 points.
Against Gordon Lee, which entered the game with a 3-1 record and averaging 16 points per game, Christian Heritage’s defense shined all over the stat sheet. The Lions only allowed three first downs and 79 yards as the Trojans rushed 26 times and gained only 37 yards — an average of 1.4 yards per carry — and passed just 15 times.
By comparison, Christian Heritage’s offense was a near-perfect balance. The Lions rushed 31 times for 67 yards and threw the ball 28 times, completing 18 passes for 260 yards to bring the season passing yardage tally to 1,426.
• Coahulla Creek would surely like to cut out some penalties heading into its next game after logging 11 for 72 yards against Gordon Central, including two offsides calls on the Colts’ defense.
Offensively, Coahulla Creek plugged away enough with the running game to set up big plays in the passing game. Six different Colts carried the ball against Gordon Central as Coahulla Creek gained 69 yards, and the Colts ran efficiently in the second half as Cameron Burton had 10 of his 17 carries in the final two quarters.
Colts quarterback Blaine Williams wasn’t too efficient through the air, completing 8 of 22 passes for 181 yards and no interceptions, but he did hit Levi Wilson for a 46-yard touchdown pass and tossed a 78-yard scoring strike to Baley Jones. Williams also found Michael Ward, Darius Miller and Eric Dominguez on key drive-sustaining passes.
Coahulla Creek’s defense put pressure on Gordon Central quarterback Cody Smith and his running backs. The Colts held Cody Jones to negative-19 yards rushing on seven carries. Coahulla Creek’s defense also was opportunistic in recovering four of the six fumbles by the Warriors, including a key recovery when Gordon Central had reached the Colts’ 9-yard line.
• With a 14-play, 98-yard scoring drive, the Dalton offense proved its mettle against the Panthers. With a mix of solid running and just enough passing to keep Ridgeland off balance, the Cats put together their most impressive drive of the season.
Even without tailback Kelvis Rhodes providing his usual production — he managed just 49 yards on 10 carries in the game — quarterback Payton Veraldi guided the team down the field in a drive that took more than five minutes off of the game clock and extended the Dalton lead to 21-0. It was Veraldi’s first game as the lone “starting” quarterback after fellow signal caller Jase Chastain went down with a pair of broken bones in his right leg in a win over Cass the week prior.
(As a tribute, Dalton’s Eder Mora switched from his usual No. 11 and wore Chastain’s No. 10 in the victory.)
“As the thing to build on from here on, that was it,” Dalton coach Matt Land said of the drive. “Our offense grew up in those minutes, and I’m very, very pleased with that.”
It was the biggest shining moment for the Dalton offense in a game where it didn’t have to do very much to win the game.
The defense and punt returner Tyler Noland did most of the hard work for the offense.
Two of Dalton’s scoring drives were less than 20 yards after Mora forced and recovered a Ridgeland fumble at the Panthers’ 16 and Noland’s 44-yard punt return gave the offense the ball at the Ridgeland 9. The defense also held the Panthers to just 94 yards of total offense.
“Our defense played its tail off from the beginning to the end,” Land said. “They stepped up and gave us some turnovers and made two big stands. If you want to talk about a player of the game, you would have to give it to our entire defense.”
• Despite a rough first half to the season in the win-loss record and the region standings, North Murray has been close to victory in several of its defeats.
North Murray finished 5-5 in 2012, and three of the losses were by fewer than 20 points. This season, one loss was by four points (30-26 versus Dade County) and another by three (38-35 versus Sonoraville). The 10-point loss Friday to Adairsville was another almost-there moment for the young Mountaineers, who began the year with five returning starters and an entirely new starting backfield in an option-heavy offense.
“We’re making a few more mistakes than everybody else is,” coach David Gann said. “Sometimes when you go through a rebuilding year, that’s part of the growing pains that you go through.”
North Murray’s average loss margin this season is 16 points, and a big reason the number isn’t lower is because of a 55-15 loss to state-ranked Cartersville, which is undefeated and has an average win margin of 41.8. Coahulla Creek and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, fellow Region 5-3A teams with 2-4 overall records, have average loss margins of 23.3 and 41.5, respectively.
Additionally, the Mountaineers’ schedule has been challenging so far.
The opponents from their six games have a combined record of 19-15. For the rest of the regular season, North Murray will play just one team, Ringgold (5-1), that currently has a winning record. The combined record of the Mountaineers’ remaining four opponents is 9-15.
• Southeast coach Sean Gray made sure to raise sophomore quarterback Will Swantic’s spirits during the second half at LaFayette.
“I walked over to him twice in the second half and said, ‘Keep your head up,’” Gray said.
Swantic and the Raiders’ offense struggled in the first half, scoring just three points. Despite rushing for 96 yards, Swantic completed just 3 of 9 passes for 27 yards and threw an interception on the last play before halftime.
Southeast gained 190 yards in the first half, with 163 coming on the ground. Aside from the interception, two fumbles in LaFayette territory didn’t help Swantic and the Raiders in the first 24 minutes.
“Our spread was working,” Gray said. “We just kept turning the ball over.”
After switching to a power-based offense with senior Rhett Harper at quarterback, Southeast rallied from a 14-3 deficit by scoring 28 points in the second half.
The offense gained more than 200 yards in the second half, and Harper threw for 104 yards despite Southeast calling 22 run plays and just three pass plays. Most of the yards came on Harper’s first pass, a 71-yard touchdown to Colter Faith that started the comeback.
All season, Harper has been the quarterback out of the run-based I-formation and Swantic the quarterback for spread packages.
Gray said he does not have any plans to make Harper the only quarterback.