North Oconee High School’s football Titans could be heard amongst the surprisingly thick rainbow of colors sprinkled in the Titan Stadium bleachers.
The Titans’ exuberance was almost exploding behind their pre-game banner. ‘The boys of fall are back’ it read. The Titans ran into Titan Stadium for the first time in the 2019 season and earned a 28-10 win over Jackson County High School.
Winning Thursday night doesn’t go toward the Titans’ season record as Thursday’s game was only a scrimmage. That didn’t curtail the Titans’ enthusiasm and aggressive style of play.
NOHS head coach Tyler Aurandt expected the Titans would be excited to play. Preseason practices have built-in boredom. Aurandt likes to think he has a good feel of his team but heading into the game he had the game plan of getting the running game going, which was something the Titans leaned heavily on to earn their 9-3 record last season.
“I knew there would be a lot of energy tonight because our kids are excited about the opportunity to go and play, especially against someone else,” Aurandt said. “I knew they’d come out here with a lot of energy and juice and they did that.”
It was the passing attack that eventually woke the Titans up on the field on Thursday night. For the first 22 minutes of play, the Titans ran the ball and didn’t make much progress against the Panthers’ defense.
“I’ll take a lot of that responsibility for that [first quarter],” Aurandt said. “I was being hesitant as a play-caller and trying to make sure we were in good situations instead of just playing with tempo and letting our guys just go out and do their thing. When we started to do that in the second quarter you could start to see them get some life… We wanted to come out and run the football tonight. That kind of turned because we got hot throwing the ball. It’s kind of funny, you think you’ve got one game plan and you come out here and it’s totally different. It’s good to see our kids come out and compete.”
Aurandt decided to open the passing attack up for junior Bubba Chandler, who was unofficially making his first start under center for the Titans after backing up Kaleb Sherrer last season.
The Titans hit a long pass to get them into the redzone and then a short screen to Max Tumblin got them on the board for the first time in 2019. The Titans got the ball back before halftime and struck on a long pass to Eli Warrington. Chandler found Warrington in the back of the endzone for his second touchdown of the evening.
Feeling the vibes of the passing attack, Aurandt dialed up the passing attack when Chandler hit Bennett Toci for an 80-yard touchdown pass. The Titans began to filter their starters out near the mid-point of the third quarter, but the passing offense struck once more for a long gain by Chance Cross after a screen from backup quarterback Gavin Black.
For more on this story, see the Aug. 22 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, go to oconeeenterprise.com or call (706) 769-5175.