It was a cold night at Warrior Stadium as the Oconee County High School football team closed out its regular season schedule.
The Warriors defeated Franklin County 48-6 to go 9-1 entering the Class AAA state playoffs.
Oconee County’s offense spread out the ball for six different players to score throughout the night. It wasn’t completely simple, though, as many unusual plays and loose balls benefited the Warriors.
Fifteen seconds into the first quarter, Franklin County took a risk and made a long toss to a lonesome receiver, who then sprinted to the end zone. The PAT was no good, but it gave the Lions a quick lead.
It only lasted two minutes before Whit Weeks rushed in his first touchdown of the evening to put the Warriors on the board and in the lead 7-6.
The momentum continued throughout the first quarter, and with nearly four minutes left, a hectic 30 seconds resulted in two touchdowns for Oconee County.
Darius Johnson Jr. ran in for a 25-yard touchdown. After Franklin County regained possession of the ball, it was fumbled, and the Warriors recovered possession at the Lions’ own 18-yard line.
Weeks again found a path and broke into the end zone for his second touchdown.
After having their two lowest-scoring games the previous two weeks, a 21-6 lead after the first quarter was a good sign for Warriors head coach Travis Noland.
“We just executed well,” Noland said. “We've been struggling a little bit offensively, but we stayed behind the chains. It was nice to go out there and get into the rhythm of the game for the first time.”
That rhythm continued into the second frame.
Jesean Heard picked up his first touchdown of the season with a 2-yard rush.
Dylan Manders quickly followed Heard’s footsteps. His breakup of the Franklin County offense led to an unusual scoop and score.
Peyton Broadnax closed out the half with his first touchdown of the season on a 6-yard rush.
The Warriors led 42-6 at the half, their highest point total of any complete game of the season.
Weeks already saw the difference they had been working on in practice after slow performances against Stephens County and Monroe Area, the Warriors’ only loss of the season.
“We've definitely got our focus back. In the middle of the season we got rolling and then we kind of hit a slug,” Weeks said. “We didn't change anything. We just went back to work. Just had to get our focus back because we haven't lost regular season games since, like, two or three years ago. That was different definitely, but we just came back to work.”
It was a nearly scoreless second half, but sophomore quarterback Mac Ricks broke through the Lions’ defense for nearly 50 yards to score the final touchdown.
Another missed field goal, but this time by the Warriors, ended the game 48-6.
Noland said that execution had been the biggest issue for Oconee County the past few games, but that wasn’t an issue last Friday night.
“We gotta play good football this time of year,” Noland said. “You can’t turn it over, and you just have to play good sound football and play a lot of motion. And get late in the year, see who wants to play.”
The Warriors made it to two consecutive state championships the past two years, but haven’t yet won the title in the current era.
They went undefeated in the regular season in 2020, but lost one game the previous year and still made it to Atlanta.
Weeks said he believes his team can do that again this year.
“I know this team. We can go on the road and we can win four straight games on the road, make it back to Atlanta and win state so it doesn't affect anything,” Weeks said. “You’ve got to know that it's just a one-week season at that point. You got to prepare. Prepare like it's your last week ever because it might be.”
To get there, Noland will rely on his senior players for their experience and dependability in those high-pressure moments.
“It takes a lot to get to the state championship, and they know how to play good playoff football. So, hopefully, they'll do the things necessary,” Noland said. “I don't expect them not to do a great job leading this team.”
Oconee County will host Adairsville this Friday, Nov. 12, for the first round of Class AAA playoffs.