Oconee County High School head coach Travis Noland was asked before the game if the Warriors were going to throw or run the ball ahead of the Warriors’ second round playoff matchup against Perry High School.
Noland cracked a wry grin, ‘that’s up to Perry’
The Warriors have been able to rely on pretty much every phase of the game on their way to a 10-1 this season. Friday night, the Warriors’ rushing attack that ran them through their first round opponent, Northwest Whitfield, was held in check. Boswell carried the ball 10 times for 28 yards. Darius Norman carried 10 times for 12 yards.
The Warriors found other ways to earn the 39-7 win that will send them into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2001.
Instead of pounding senior Jimmy Boswell for 20 plus carried and triple digit yards, the Warriors looked to their quarterback.
Max Johnson went 19-for-23 with 253 yards and five touchdown passes. Ben Noland led the way with seven receptions for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Jake Johnson caught four passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns.
“That’s the nice thing about our team and the hard thing about defending us,” Noland said. “We can do both. One of the reporters asked me before the game if we were going to run or pass it tonight. I said up to Perry. They were determined to load the box and not let us run. We were able to dink and dunk and make some plays in the passing game because of that.”
The Warriors’ defense made sure they offense had plenty of room to work as they forced four turnovers on the night.
The first came on the opening drive of the game when Da’Shawn Elder intercepted a throw toward the endzone. Junior linebacker Justin Coleman intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Darius Johnson recovered a muffed punt late in the first half. Defensive lineman Carsen Stocklinski intercepted a pass in the third quarter. The Warriors also blocked a field goal attempt.
The Warriors gave up yards. PHS gained 296 total yards of offense on the night. For Noland, the special part of the Warriors’ run so far has been the timing of the big plays by the defense that has the Warriors knocking on some doors the program hasn’t been near in a long time.
“Our defense did a great job rising up and making some plays when they (PHS) had a chance to make some plays,” Noland said. “I’m really excited for them and how they’ve performed. What they’re doing isn’t by accident. We’ve been practicing really well. They’ve been playing really well together with a lot of confidence. We know that we’re about to have a huge challenge in front of us, but we’ve put ourselves in position to have that opportunity.”
The Warriors will host Marist on Friday night after the War Eagles defeated Carver-Columbus on Friday night to advance.
When the Warriors take the field on Friday night, it will be the first playoff football played by the Warriors after Thanksgiving since 2001. Many of the Warriors’ players weren’t even born when the Warriors of 2001 fell to Troup County High School 17-14.
“It says a lot about our players and our coaches,” Noland said. “We’ve got a special that really cares about each other and they come to work every day and they don’t want to let each other down. They’ve been a fun group to coach. They’re a really good group for the community to want to get behind and support. They’re good kids and they’re really good students. It’s the type of team that as a coach you really enjoy spending time with.”