max wilson

North Oconee football found its second win of the season with an impressive shutout over Madison County last Friday night.

The 28-0 victory came after the Titans’ bye week. Head coach Tyler Aurandt used the extra time to focus on rest and work on fundamentals they needed to clean up, like tackling and blocking.

“To be 1-0 in the region and to get some momentum headed into region play with a tough six-game stretch, that was big for our kids and big for our program,” Aurandt said. “It’s something that they’ve worked really hard on the last two weeks to try and get to this moment so I’m just proud of them and the effort from [last Friday].”

The Titans defense limited Madison County to just 148 yards, which led the team to a fourth consecutive win over the Red Raiders and second shutout in as many games.

“They’re just flying around making plays and did a great job of tackling the ball carrier in space,” Aurandt said. “We gave up some yards but we never gave up a big play and we always found a way to get them off the field. Hats off to our defensive staff and our kids for executing the game plan. They played really well on that side of the ball.”

Defense contributed to the offense as well, blocking a punt from Madison County with 4:10 left in the game. It put the ball in the red zone for the Titans, setting up enough space for Rodrick Finch to sneak in an extra yard and score the game-securing touchdown.

Finch and Dominic Elder Jr. were the key components in the Titans offense as both running backs scored two touchdowns each. Finch scored his other with less than one minute in the first quarter, while Elder’s two came within three minutes of each other in the fourth quarter.

Elder and Finch knew that a strong offense was needed against Madison County, even with their team’s defensive performance.

“(Aurandt) was telling us we gotta start fast, we gotta keep our foot on the pedal no matter what the score says,” Finch said. “No matter if it’s 0-0 or 14-0, we gotta keep going, pushing it down their throat every play.”

The offensive performance would not have been possible without a new starting quarterback. Max Wilson completed eight out of 15 passes in his start, totaling 64 yards on top of 101 rushing yards.

Friday’s game marked Wilson’s season debut and first career start for the Titans. The sophomore sat out the first four games due to a broken collarbone.

With a quick recovery and injuries keeping other quarterbacks from the field, Wilson was called for Friday’s start.

“I was juiced up, I was ready to go and it’s a good way to start,” Wilson said. “It sucks sitting there having to watch the team play, so once you come back, you’re fired up, you gotta stay composed, and this is a good way to start coming back.”

Even as a young player, Aurandt applauded Wilson on his ability to lead the offense.

“He’s a really good leader, he plays really hard, he’s a really good runner,” Aurandt said. “He gives us an opportunity to do some different things offensively.”

North Oconee’s victory is a good sign for the team as it officially enters region play. It scheduled difficult non-region teams to prepare for the regular season and, eventually, the playoffs.

Aurandt credits the win to his team’s ability to play all 48 minutes of the game, something the Titans were lacking in their last two losses. The win over Madison County is an opportunity to develop consistency in all areas.

“Coach always talks about stacking moments on top of each other,” Wilson said. “You can’t win a game and then lose a game, win a game, lose a game, you gotta keep stacking the wins on top of each other and keep the momentum going.”

Just as North Oconee’s young players like Wilson look to build confidence on the field, Friday night helped players like Elder and Finch in their own leadership.

An offensive force against the Red Raiders, the two running backs learned what they can accomplish the rest of the season.

“RBU is all I gotta say,” Elder said. “I feel like we’ve got the best two running backs in the area.”

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