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Posted: Saturday, October 6th 2012 at 12:56am

War Eagles avoid upset, rally past Knights

By Jeff Hart Staff
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Chestatee celebrates during a game played earlier this season. / photo: Robert Hernandez
OAKWOOD – After pulling off perhaps its biggest road win in school history last week, and staring at five straight Region 8-AAAA games to finish the year, Chestatee’s matchup against rebuilding Johnson in a non-region contest Friday night had all the trappings of a letdown.

And the War Eagles barely escaped.

Chestatee’s depth finally got to the Knights in the fourth quarter as the War Eagles scored 15 points in a three minute span to pull away from the upset-minded Knights for a tougher-than-expected 36-26 win at Billy Ellis Stadium.

With region title hopes in its control, Chestatee could not afford an interruption in the momentum it has built in the first half of the season.

“We’re excited about the position we’re in but we still have a lot of work to do,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “We knew there might be some letdown after the Stephens win but really Johnson is just a good football team and really came out ready to play. They are doing a great job over there.”

The War Eagles (4-1, 2-0 in region) play three of their next four games at home, including against unbeaten and eighth-ranked Monroe Area, and can take control in the playoff race.

Luttrell said they are just focusing on Walnut Grove (1-4, 1-2) a team the War Eagles have faced just once, a 29-21 win two years ago.

“We’re glad to be 4-1 but if we want to have a chance in the region we will have to work on the things that we didn’t do well tonight,” he said. “That’s our next game and the only thing we’re talking about.”

The War Eagles had two turnovers, misplayed a Johnson onside kick, committed four penalties - three that kept Johnson scoring drives alive – and allowed several big plays on defense.

“Those have to be corrected as we move down the road,” Luttrell said. “But we stepped up in the fourth quarter when we needed to and that’s what good teams do.”

Cedric Harris did everything he could do to keep Johnson in the game short of selling concessions. The senior running back had 97 yards on 22 carries, a kickoff return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery, and two sacks on defense.

“He is a tremendous player and we knew we would have to stop him somehow,” Luttrell said. “He played a great game.”

The key play came with Chestatee leading just 29-26 with just over three minutes left. The War Eagles were able to stop Harris on a fourth-and-2 at the Knights 40 and then Jordan DeGraff sealed the game two plays later with a 28-yard touchdown run.

Johnson (3-3) came out fired up taking the opening drive 65 yards for the first score of the game. The drive was kept alive twice by Chestatee penalties and a 21-yard run by Dre Johnson set up a 1-yard TD run by Harris for a 6-0 score after Chestatee blocked the point after attempt.

Chestatee would answer right back when A.J. Sijiye, who finished with 127 yards on 14 carries, took the first snap 65-yards to give the War Eagles a 7-6 lead after Jose Zamora’s extra point. But the pesky Knights would not go away.

Harris caught the ensuing kickoff and sprinted through the Chestatee defense 82-yards for a touchdown to reclaim the lead for Johnson 13-7. Two minutes later Quan Clark would grab the lead back for the War Eagles, 14-13, capping a 73-yard drive with a 25-yard scamper for a touchdown.

It looked like Chestatee was ready to take control on its first drive of the second quarter moving to the Johnson 30. But the Knights stripped DeGraff and Harris scooped up the fumble and returned it 60 yards to the Chestatee 3. He would cap the short drive three plays later with a 1-yard run for a 20-14 lead. It would stay that way until halftime.

Chestatee started fast in the third quarter when Clark raced 60 yards on the first play to give the War Eagles a 21-20 lead. But the Knights again answered when Dre Johnson capped a long drive with a 3-yard scoring run to make it 26-21.

It stayed that way until Chestatee exploded in the final five minutes of the game.

Chestatee...........14....0....7....15 -- 36
Johnson....13…..7.....6....0 -- 26

First Quarter
JHS – D. Johnson 1 run (kick failed) 5:03, 6-0
CHS – Sijiye 65 run (Zamora kick) 4:00, 7-6
JHS – Harris 82 kickoff return (Henry kick) 3:47, 13-7
CHS – Clark 25 run (Zamora kick) 1:16, 14-13

Second Quarter
JHS – Harris 1 run (Henry kick) 6:26, 20-14

Third Quarter
CHS – Sijiye 60 run (Zamora kick) 11:37, 21-20
JHS – D. Johnson 3 run (kick failed) 5:13, 26-21

Fourth Quarter
CHS – Sijiye 19 run (DeGraff pass) 5:34, 29-26
CHS – DeGraff 28 run (Zamora kick) 2:30, 35-36

NOTES: Chestatee has now won nine straight against the Knights and has averaged 36.4 ppg during that stretch…..Only one game in the series has been decided by six points or less, a 13-7 Chestatee win in 2006…The Last 4-1 start for Chestatee was in 2007….Last start to season better than 2012 was in 2003 when they started 5-1 in the second of three straight playoff runs.
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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