Posted: Friday, August 23rd 2013 at 11:59pm
Lotti, Spartans excise demons in shutout of rival Johnson
By Jeff Hart Staff
OAKWOOD -- The number 34.4 had haunted West Hall coach Tony Lotti since the end of last season. Lotti and the Spartans excised that demon Friday night.
West Hall opened its 2013 season with a surprising and dominating 35-0 whitewash of cross-town rival Johnson at West Hall Stadium in a performance that is sure to draw plenty of attention from fellow Region 7-AAA opponents.
It was the first shutout win for the Spartans (1-0) since beating Gilmer 27-0 in the third game of the 2008 season. More importantly, it showed that the work of defensive coordinator Ben Corley and his staff in the offseason is ready to pay dividends.
The number 34.4 was the amount allowed by the Spartans defense last season on average.
“I can’t say enough about the job of our coaches and the kids for buying into what they were teaching,” Lotti said as he was surrounded by a sizable crowd of West Hall faithful. “That number was something that haunted us and we wanted to change that. I thought we played outstanding all game long.”
They held Johnson (0-1) to just 115 total yards and five first downs for the game and forced three turnovers that led to 21 points.
Lotti also said he was expecting big things from his seniors this season. It took just one half for them to show they are up for the challenge.
Zack English, Hunter Atkinson, and Antonio Pittman put on an offensive display early on. English connected with Atkinson on an 18-yard touchdown on the second possession of the game, Pittman scored on a 5-yard TD run as part of his 62 first-half yards, and English capped a dominating opening 24 minutes with a 27-yard scamper for a stunning 21-0 halftime lead.
“I thought they did an outstanding job of leading by example,” Lotti said. “We still made some mistakes with two turnovers but overall I was very pleased with how things went.”
The Spartans piled up 300 total yards -- 256 rushing -- with Pittman finishing with 86 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters of work. English had 56 yards rushing and 44 passing for West Hall.
With a week off now to assess and get ready for Chestatee, Lotti said he feels the direction of the program is ready to turn the corner.
“I hope so,” he said. “The community has been great and the kids are working hard and want to get things going in a positive direction. This is just one game but it’s a lot better position than where we were at this time last year.”
After the two teams’ traded fumbles on their opening possessions, the Spartans would take advantage of a short field. English would find a wide-open Atkinson across the middle for an 18-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead after Bradley Hodgson’s extra point with 5:16 left in the first quarter.
After stopping the Knights on downs on their next possession, the Spartans had a chance to add to the lead but Hodgson would narrowly miss a 33-yard field goal.
West Hall would extend its lead on its next possession as Pittman scored on a 5-yard run. The Spartans would cap a near-perfect first half when English followed a beautiful block by Pittman to ramble 27 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
Pittman would add a second touchdown on the Spartans first possession of the second half and Tyquan Statham raced 11 yards for a touchdown with 51 seconds left in the third quarter to cap the scoring.
NOTES: Johnson was 7-11-1 all-time against West Hall coming into Friday’s game. . .Four of the previous five games had been decided by six points or less.
Johnson.......0......0......0.....0 -- 0
West Hall.....7.....14....14....0 -- 35
WH -- Atkinson 18 pass from English (Hodgson kick) 7-0, 5:16
WH -- A. Pittman 5 run (Hodgson kick) 14-0, 8:37
WH -- English 27 run (Hodgson kick) 21-0, 1:05
WH -- A. Pittman 6 run (Hodgson kick) 28-0, 6:48
WH -- Statham 11 run (Hodgson kick) 35-0, 0:51
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