By KEVIN WEAKS
South Fulton showed up for the first half of its game with Lake County.
The Falcons stuck around for the second.
Lake County blitzed SF after intermission, beginning on the very first play, to run away with a 58-27 win Friday night at the South Fulton.
“I’ve always felt like fast starts were a big part of preparation, and we prepared well,” SF head coach Kelly Spivey said. “We had a great week or practice. We had a good Thursday, which has been where we’ve fallen apart a little. I don’t know what’s wrong with us. The first half was excellent. It couldn’t have been much better.”
Is was a frustrating Senior Night in what has developed into a very disappointing season for SF. The Red Devils will close their regular season this weekend at Union City against the No. 10-ranked Golden Tornadoes.
Despite its 3-7 overall record and 1-4 District 14A mark — and maybe even regardless of this week’s result — South Fulton is still in the playoff hunt under the TSSAA’s still hard to understand Z-plan. Still, the Red Devils could have helped the state organization with a win against the Falcons.
“We just don’t want to control our own destiny,” Spivey said. “If we win this one, I’m pretty sure we’re in. If we win next week, I’m pretty sure we’re in. The only thing keeping us up there is strength of schedule. We’ve played a lot of teams with good records.”
South Fulton certainly played like a postseason team for much of the first half, building a 19-6 lead and basically controlling the game.
Scoring on its first three possessions, SF gained 191 of its 266 total yards with a good run-pass balance of 93 and 98 yards. The Redmen totaled nine of their 13 first downs, converting four third-down tries and turning a 4th-and-11 into a 38-yard touchdown pass.
The Falcons looked good on their lone scoring drive in the midst of South Fulton’s fast start, going 67 yards in 13 plays.
That scoring proved to be a preview of what was to come, though, as Lake County began to take control of the game late in the first half with a 11-play, 58-yard scoring march that started an avalanche of points.
By the time South Fulton could muster up a fourth touchdown, the Falcons had run off 46 straight points to turn the 19-6 deficit into a 52-19 lead.
“We scored 19 points in the first half, and I don’t know why we couldn’t score in the second half,” Spivey said. “We needed their offense to have to work and take a long time, and then we needed our offense to sustain drives to give the kids we had on defense a break. That worked well in the first half. But, big plays eliminate that quickly. Long drives (for LC), three-and-outs (for SF), all those things eliminate that quickly. It’s not rocket science.”
The Falcons ended up with 406 rushing yards, led by two players with over 100 yards. Devon Jones had 15 carries for 128 yards and three scores, doing the majority of his work out of the “wildcat” offense. Paul Caldwell, meanwhile, was the Falcons’ power back in pushing forward for 127 yards and two TDs on 19 carries.
“If you look at them and look at us, it doesn’t take long to figure out that when they line up three-backs and two-tights, they’re going to wear us out eventually,” Spivey said. “That doesn’t really bother me, though. What bothers me is when you won’t block a kid or won’t stay on a block, or you keep diving the same way and missing tackles. That’s what upsets me as a coach.”
South Fulton made the big plays early, scoring once on third down and once on fourth.
After teaming up to convert a 3rd-and-14 on the game’s third play, JaQuay Garmon and J.P. Fowler hooked up on another big third down as Garmon threw to Fowler for a 32-yard score at 9:28 of the first quarter.
Ryan Moore then finished a 10-play, 86-yard drive with a one-yard run at 3:04 of the first period.
Nick Price put the Falcons on the board with a one-yarder of his own at 8:56 of the second frame, but SF came right back and answered the score when Garmon threw over the middle to Tyler Morris for 38 yards, overcoming a 4th-and-11 .
Jones began to emerge on LC’s second scoring drive, breaking off runs of 15 and 14 yards before lining up in the “wildcat” for the first time on a three-yard TD run with 27 seconds to play in the first half.
Lake County’s 19-12 deficit at the end of the first half was wiped away on the first play after intermission as Jones took the direct snap around the left side for a 53-yard TD run. He then added the conversion to put LC ahead 20-19.
“They made a play with an athlete,” Spivey said. “We’re not going to catch kids, we haven’t done it all year. Our thing is to bottle it up, like we did in the first half. We can’t get in a foot race with them.”
LC ended up with 22 points in the third period and 24 more in the fourth.
Jones had a three-yard run, and then Zay Coleman pulled down a 36-yard TD pass from Price on a 4th-and-7 to help stretch the margin to 34-19 after three periods. Caldwell scored on a two-yard run and then followed a Red Devil fumble with a 35-yard scoring run. LC’s 46-point binge concluded when Derrian Gross recovered a fumble in the end zone for a score with 3:38 left in the game.
Willy Kneuppel tore off a 55-yard TD run at 3:07 to momentarily stop LC’s momentum, but the Falcon reserves tacked on one more big play when Darius Johnson went 31 yards with 34 seconds remaining.
“I was just upset with our lack of effort,” Spivey said. “We decided to give it to Kneuppel at the end of the game. He didn’t have a perfect game, but you never question his effort. I want to reward kids like that. We have some others who just don’t want to hit. They need to find another sport if they’re going to be that way.”
Published in The Messenger 10.15.12