Ware Edged by Northside 23-14

Ware Edged by Northside 23-14

 The Ware County Gators traded punches with Northside Friday night and will get ready to take on Number 1 ranked Lowndes County this Friday night in the Swamp.  Advance discounted tickets can be purchased at First Southern Bank, J Green and Company Jewelers, the Central Board Office and the high school ticket office from 8:00 am -1:00 pm beginning Tuesday Morning. Advance tickets can also be purchased online at www.warecountygators.net.

 

* Story compliments of John Scott Cooper of the Waycross Journal Herald

The Ware County High Gators entered Friday's contest seeking their first win of the season, and they played tough against the Northside-Warner Robins Eagles, ranked No. 6 in Class AAAAAA, but Ware couldn't quite get it done, losing 23-14. Ware (0-3) will lick its wounds and prepare for another daunting challenge with Lowndes High coming to town next week. Lowndes is considered the best of an early season "Murderer's Row" the Gators are staring down the barrel of. The Green, Gold and White had been idle (because of weather issues) since losing to a ranked Coffee club 21-14 on Sept. 1. Earlier, on Aug. 25, a lackluster offense doomed Ware to a 31-7 loss to highly regarded Glynn Academy. "It was good to finally play again," said Ware's head coach Franklin Stephens. "The only problem is that we dropped one to Northside tonight and turn around and pick up one against Lowndes next week." The Gators and Northside (4- 1) swapped punches in the first quarter with Ware striking first on a 69-yard run by senior running back Raja Bradley. Bradley burst through the defenders bunched at the line of scrimmage and outraced them down the right sideline into the end zone with 9:17 showing. Bradley only touched the ball seven times, five rushes for 74 yards and two receptions for 18 more making him a key cog in the home team's offensive production, which again was underwhelming. The Victor Steedley extra point kick put the home team up 7-0. The Gator defense — which, by and large, made Northside's celebrated attack unit appear to be less than daunting all night — then made the first of its two big mistakes. "There were too many big plays (by Northside), two big plays," said Stephens. "And at times we gave a few extra yards that allowed them to kick field goals, but overall our guys played hard, they played pretty good." Northside took the next possession and junior DeShawn Cumby threw a mid-range pass to Prentice McGhee, a sophomore receiver, who ran away from Gator defenders for an 80- yard score, quickly evening the score and causing witnesses to wonder if they were about to witness a scoring fest. The man who turned out to be the Eagles' big weapon, junior placekicker Cory Munson, booted the extra point through the uprights to tie the score. Munson would finish the game kicking two extra points and field goals of 51, 44 and 49 yards. The final margin of victory for Northside — 9 points. "Our defense let them wiggle through for an extra few yards and they capitalized," Stephens said. "If the kick would have been for 56 yards instead of 49, they probably would have punted." The first 12 minutes of rapid scoring was just a tease. Friday night would be no barn-burner. Things slowed down almost to a halt. The Gator defense, playing well after the frenetic first quarter, held Northside to 91 yards of offense. Mostly, they forced punts with Munson booming those kicks also. But three times, Ware defenders bent just enough to get in range of the Eagle kicker with the big leg. In most other games, those nine points wouldn't have been scored, but Stephens refused to let that be an excuse. "You can't discount that weapon," the Ware coach said. "The problem was that our offense came with a bang and then fizzled out. Northside has a pretty good defense, but we got to make more plays and cut down on our miscues." He indicated there was a smorgasbord of missed assignments. "Is it a block? A run? A pass? A catch? We have to make the play," Stephens said. The Gators scored on their second drive, moving the ball 48 yards after a 46-yard kickoff return by freshman Dream Gainer. Junior quarterback Jeremiah O'Hara was the key to the drive, making runs of 16, 8 and 3 yards and tossing a 13-yard pass to Acy Paulk and an eight-yard pass to Jordan Turner. O'Hara finished the possession with a nine-yard dash off right tackle for a touchdown. Steedley's extra point kick gave Ware a 14-7 lead that was short-lived. Two possessions later, the Eagles had a one-play drive with an 80-yard run by Marcus Jolly. At the end of the first, the game was tied at 14. In the second quarter, Northside only had to move the football 35 yards to set up a 51-yard field goal by Munson. On the next Eagle drive, Ware held them to 33 yards of offense, but Munson kicked the threepointer from 44 yards out.

 

Late in the third quarter, Northside took possession after a short punt — the only bad one of the night —at the Gators' 38 yard line. The Eagles moved the ball six yards in three plays. Munson then lined up and booted a 49-yard field goal. Those three long kicks, long even by college or pro standards, were the difference on the scoreboard. Stephens expressed pride in his team after the game, saying he liked what he was seeing in the players, he just needs to see the production improve to go the direction he expects of the Gators. He applauded the tackling of his defense overall — Northside only made seven first downs and gained a total of 260 yards. The Gator offense couldn't sustain drives, though, a fact that Stephens bemoaned. They went three and out seven times. Other than the quick first score, the longest drive was the one that led to the other touchdown. The fact is that Ware is winless in its first three games of 2017. That is not the start Stephens — or anybody — wanted. "We'll go back to work and come up with a better plan, one that will allow us to be successful," Stephens said. "This is a football town and they expect us to win; nobody is going to feel sorry for you. They want results, they want successful results. A lot of folks may think we're not very good. I think we're a dang good football team. We're playing some pretty good people."

* All pictures are compliments of Bo Carter. Click HERE to go to BO's Website

 

Jeremiah O'Hara scores on a 9 yard touchdown run...

 

South Carolina Commit Ernest Jones makes tackle...

 

Logan Braucht makes tackle for a loss...

 

 

Raja Bradley drives for yardage....

 

Braucht tackles Northside quarterback...

 

 

Varsity Cheerleaders Lead the Student Section....

 

 

Junior Varsity Cheerleaders 

 

Gators celebrate Childhood Cancer Awareness at halftime.

 

 

Ware County Teachers of the Year recognized prior to the game...

 

 

Ware County Teacher of the Year Holley Todd with Dr. Jenny Barnes of Waresboro Elementary School...

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