The Ware County Gators will host the East Lake Eagles from Tarpon Springs, Florida this Friday night in the Swamp. The Gators have embraced the toughest non-region schedule in the state and continue to get better each week as the Region Schedule approaches. We need for the entire Gator Nation to come to the Swamp Friday as we celebrate Homecoming.
Game Story compliments of By RICK HEAD Sports Editor. Thank you!
Lowndes senior signal-caller Michael Barrett threw for three long touchdowns and ran for another score leading the Class AAAAAAA second-ranked Vikings to a 37-6 win over Ware County in Memorial Stadium Friday night. The victory kept Lowndes unbeaten at 6-0 against non-region foes and kept the Gators winless at 0-4 against perhaps the toughest non-region schedule in the state. "Our players and coaches have never been in this situation before," Ware County head coach Franklin Stephens said of the fourgame skid to start the year. "That is a tough pill to swallow. Teams are measured by wins and losses. Everybody is working hard to be successful and right now we're not reaping the benefits of hard work. "We have to go back to work Monday and try and figure this thing out. We're not going to receive any sympathy. I will tell you there are no quitters on this team." "The last three teams (Coffee, Northside-Warner Robins, Lowndes) we have faced could very easily reach the quarterfinals or semifinals. All are good programs and they play hard. That's where we have to get back to. We've got to elevate our program to another level."
Ware County has one more game to get things right before Region 2-AAAAA play begins in two weeks at Statesboro. The Gators will host East Lake of Tarpon Springs, Fla., in a homecoming tilt next week. The Eagles are 3-2 after beating Countryside (Clearwater, Fla.) 45- 14 Friday night. East Lake has alternated wins and losses through the first five weeks. "It's easy to talk when things are going your way," said Stephens. "We've got to learn to deal with adversity and continue to work because there is still a lot of football to be played. "Statesboro, Wayne County and South Effingham don't care what our record is. All three schools are looking at getting a win. We've just got to figure out how to win." As has been the case all season, the Gators were done in by big plays from the enemy offense. Barrett (13-of-18, 283 yards) threw touchdown passes of 40, 43 and 72 yards. "That seems to be the norm for us," said Stephens of the big play scores. "Those were some great balls the quarterback threw. Their (Vikings) receivers were running post routes and vertical routes and he (Barrett) hit them in stride. We've got to be able to do a better job of covering receivers." Lowndes running attack was held in check, except for a 48- yard run by Barrett and his 12- yard scramble for the final touchdown.
Take off those 60 yards and Ware County's defense limited the Vikings to just 54 yards on 24 carries. Lowndes struck first on its second offensive possession. The Vikings, after pinning Ware County deep with a punt, needed just two plays to score from 41 yards out. Barrett connected with Tayvonn Kyle (five catches, 159 yards) on a 40-yard scoring toss at the 6:36 mark of the opening stanza. Ashley Musgrove connected on the PAT for a 7-0 lead. The Gators, whose average starting field position for 10 drives was its own 18, needed 13 plays and 4:48 of the clock to cover 80 yards following the Lowndes' score. Dream Gainer (nine carries, 51 yards) got the drive going with a 14-yard sweep around right end. Jeremiah O'Hara (20 carries, 117 yards) darted 18 yards two plays later.
Raja Bradley (10 carries, 91 yards) had a 17-yard gain with Jordan Turner's lone carry netting 14 yards as Ware County reached the Vikings' three. It would take the Gators four plays to punch the ball in from there with O'Hara keeping on each snap. Finally, on fourth-and-goal, O'Hara found a little opening to penetrate the goal line pulling Ware County to within 7-6. The PAT by Robert Jacobs sailed wide of the uprights. It looked like it might be a track meet when Lowndes responded with a five-play, 69-yard drive on its ensuing possession. Barrett and Kyle hooked up for a 22-yard gain on third-and-eight to keep the drive alive on the last play of the first period. Barrett found running back Travis Tisdale (five catches, 87 yards) all alone running up the middle of the field two plays later for a 43-yard scoring play. Musgrove missed the PAT leaving the score at 13-7 with 11:18 remaining in the half. Two series later, the Vikings increased their lead to 20-7 with a three-play, 50-yard drive following the fourth punt of the first half by Ware County. Barrett raced 48 yards on the second play with Gary Osby running the ball in from two yards out one play later. Musgrove converted the PAT. Lowndes opened the second half with a 72-yard scoring strike from Barrett to Kyle on the first snap. Musgrove's extra point upped the lead to 27-7.
The Vikings, following a punt by Ware County, would strike again on their second possession with a methodical 14-play, 69-yard drive eating up 6:21 of the third quarter clock. Lowndes converted three times on third down and once on fourth. Barrett capped the drive racing 12 yards for the score after being flushed out of the pocket on a third-and-six play. Musgrove kicked the margin to 34-7. The Gators would follow with a 12-play drive consuming six minutes over the third and fourth quarters. Ware County once on third down and once on fourth down to keep the drive alive. The offense was unable to gain two yards to move the chains on its final two snaps from the Lowndes 37. The Vikings used up the next 4:34 of the fourth quarter clock settling for a Musgrove 43-yard field goal for the final points of the night with four minutes to play.
The Rifle Team received their State Championship Rings Friday Night Prior to the game.
Kylee Wheeler Received her State Championship Ring for Girls Golf
The Gators celebrate Middle School Night