The Ware County Gators notched their first win of the season Friday night by defeating East Lake High School from Tarpon Springs, Florida 27-9. The Gators jumped out to a 14-0 halftime lead and never looked back as they completed the most brutal non region schedule in the state. The Gators will now turn their focus to defending their region title as the travel to Statesboro this weekend to open up their four game region schedule.
Tickets for Friday's game can only be purchased online by clicking on the Game Day tab and then TICKETS. Advance tickets are $7 and tickets at the gate are $9.
Game Story below courtesy of the Waycross Journal Herald.
By JOHN SCOTT COOPER Staff Writer Friday night was a nearly perfect setting for homecoming — a touch of autumn was in the air, the fans were upbeat, a lovely queen was crowned — and the Ware County High Gators played an almost perfect game for a 27-9 victory over East Lake High, of Tarpon Springs, Fla. "We would like a perfect game, but we were just trying to win one right now," said Ware's head coach Franklin Stephens, honest about the team's goal after four straight losses to open the season. "With all we've gone through, the mindset has been, 'Let's win at everything we do.' That's the first thing I told our guys, 'Today is about winning.'" Stephens meant more than winning a ball game — "... win in the classroom, win in the weight room, win in your appearance; everything we do today is about winning and about taking care of our business tonight." Three big plays on offense and a tenacioius defense were the keys to the win that Ware (1- 4) got, as they knocked down the high-flying Eagles from central Florida, who entered the game at 3-2 and traveled home at .500 for the season. The Gators took a 14-0 lead into halftime. While the players were in the locker room, 17 young ladies and their escorts marched across the field, introduced as the 2017 homecoming court. As the full court faced the home crowd, senior Waynesha Coleman's name was called amid loud cheers in the stands and she was crowned queen. The first score of the game came with just over 10 minutes left in the first quarter, as junior quarterback Jeremiah O'Hara faked a handoff and raced around the left end and 63 yards for a touchdown. A successful Victor Steedley kick made the score 7-0.
O'Hara notched another 63-yard run later and led all ballcarriers with 147 yards on 15 rushes. He also completed five passes for 98 yards. One of those passes was a 59-yard catch and run by fullback Raja Bradley, who raced to the Eagles' 1. This set up a one-yard scoring run by Jordon Turner with 8 seconds left in the first half. "I give our guys credit tonight," Stephens said. "Coaches, they had a pretty dang good plan, and our guys came in and executed it. Yeah, we had a few snafus, but they played hard." Ware's second quarter touchdown capped a 10-play, 91-yard drive with the long catch and run by Bradley the key play. As the Gators began the third quarter, they moved 75 yards on six plays. A 63-yard run by O'Hara again keyed the series, setting the team up on the Eages' 5. Bradley took a handoff and burst through the East Lake defense for a five-yard touchdown. Steedley's kick was again good, giving the Gators a 21-0 lead. "We finally got a turnover defensively," Stephens said. "I'm proud of the effort they put forward. They've been playing hard all year long, it just hasn't quite worked out our way. And there was adversity at times tonight, we weren't sluggish, we just had a block here or there and a minor miscue there that kind of got us off track. Tonight, we were able to recover, that in three or four games we haven't been able to recover." The Eagles had reached the Gators' five yard line late in the first quarter when the quarterback tried to extend the football for yardage and a Ware player knocked it away, a fumble recovered by a Gator. They took over at their 21 after a unsportsmanlike penalty by East Lake and began their march for touchdown No. 2. East Lake entered the game, noted as primarily a running team, though senor quarterback Jackson Rowland has a strong arm and has had success passing the ball. The Gator defene held East Lake to 63 total yard running the ball.
The Eagles decided in quarter three to put the ball in the air. This led to success on their first possession of the second half. Taking possession their own 15, East Lake march relentlessly forward for 17 plays to the Ware 13 where the drive stalled. The Eagles also have a pretty good kicker, senior Ian Woodward, who kicked a 30-yard field goal. It appeared the visitors might have lit a spark and changed momentum, but it wasn't to be. "I'm proud of our guys for holding on and finally taking control of the game in the second half," Stephens said, giving the East Lake players credit for playing hard and not quitting, even as they fell behind 7-0, 14-0 and 21-0 before sthey hit the field goal and then a late touchdown. The Eagles scored on a 76-yard pass play from Rowland to Bowers. They tried another pass for a two-point conversion that failed. In between, the Gators responded with a nine-play drive of 66 yards that concluded with a Bradley two-yard TD run.
The Eagles were fed a steady diet of Bradley, who carried the ball six times for 18 yards. An 18-yard run by Jordon Turner was the big play of the series. The three-score lead Ware held was more than enough for win, and the Gators made it stand up. For the rest of the fourth quarter, the Gators ran the ball and used up time. They gained four first downs on two possessions and held East Lake to one three-and-out. The Gators are on the road to Stateboro next Friday. The Blue Devils, Ware's first region foe of the season, is coming off a 39-35 loss to New Hampstead with a record of 2-4.