FORT VALLEY — Rutland’s hopes that Peach County might be looking ahead were dashed pretty quickly.
Peach County ate up nearly half of the first quarter en route to a touchdown and retained in control for a 31-13 win Friday night at Ernest R. Anderson Stadium.
The Trojans improved to 2-0, while the Hurricanes fell to 0-2.
Peach County took early control but didn’t have many big plays and wasn’t as dominant through the first half as it was a week ago.
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“We didn’t finish the job,” Peach County head coach Chad Campbell said. “We didn’t finish the drill.
“We’re not good enough to look ahead.”
Peach County was fairly conservative on offense, showing a short-yardage passing game and typically powerful running attack.
For the second straight week, however, the Trojans bogged down in the second half.
Their first punt came with a minute left in the third quarter, and Rutland — sparked by Jarkemmy Sanford — answered.
Sanford, who sat out the first half to serve a team penalty, ran three times for 67 yards on a possession and ended it with a 6-yard score in the final seconds of the third quarter.
“We didn’t finish,” Campbell said. “We got some kids banged up, but that’s no excuse. We just didn’t finish. We didn’t play well.”
That pulled the Hurricanes, who had spent the night not moving much, to within 24-7.
The Trojans then went 65 yards on eight plays, using up 4:20 to regain some momentum.
Quarterback Patrick Taylor, who was almost impossible to sack all night, completed a 6-yard scoring pass to a sliding Luke Crowell, and Luis Lopez’s kick made it 31-7 with 7:51 left in the game.
Taylor finished 17-of-23 for 197 yards, while Crowell caught two touchdown passes and scored on a run.
Rutland couldn’t manage much forward progress for a while against a physical and aggressive Peach County defense that seemed to send at least one Trojan on a blitz every snap.
The Hurricanes’ initial first down in the first half came courtesy of a Peach County personal foul, and their next one came with 7:13 left in the half on a 12-yard run that put Rutland on the positive side of zero yardage.
Meanwhile, Taylor was in quite the comfort zone.
He completed his first five passes, threw one away on a scramble, then hit the next seven.
Rutland did turn that 12-yard run by Michael Johnson into a trip to Peach County’s side of the field, but the Hurricanes had to punt, and the Trojans ate up 5:34 en route to a 21-yard field goal with 21 seconds left for a 24-0 halftime lead.
Taylor, who showed remarkable escapability all night, had a superb half, completing 13-of-16 passes for 165 yards and two scores. The Trojans held a 259-38 yardage advantage at intermission.
Peach County took early control despite the absence of standout receiver Lamar Zanders (rib) and running back Travis Richmond (concussion), who were in uniform but not in pads. Both were banged up in last week’s win over Macon County and held out as a precaution.
The Trojans have led 58-7 at halftime of two games, owning a 34-7 lead last week against Macon County.
Rutland kept battling.
Johnson raced for 52 yards on the first play after Peach County’s fourth-quarter touchdown. Quarterback Colby Carrington completed his first pass of the night, 11 yards to Sanford on third and 12, but Sanford was inches short of the first with 5:53 remaining.
“I challenged the kids at halftime,” Rutland head coach George Collins said. “I told ‘em we didn’t have the intensity we needed. We were down 24-0. If we didn’t come out and play, Peach County could have scored 100.
“But we came out fighting.”
Greg Williams dislodged Crowell from the ball just two plays later, and Sanford carried it in from five yards out with 4:21 left.
That meant Peach County had been outscored 26-14 in the second half of the first two games of the season.
“We just bogged down,” Campbell said. “We didn’t really have a good week of practice, didn’t have that intensity.
“We have a long way to go.”