A 23-yard pass from Antonio Gilbert to Chris Gibson set up James Jackson’s short touchdown run late in the third quarter to give Peach County a cushion en route to a 31-13 win over Westside on Friday night in the GHSA Region 4-3A opener for both teams.
Fifth-ranked Peach County got off to a good start on both sides, forcing three straight three-and-outs and answering each with points, a 24-yard field goal by Mitchell Finernan, a 3-yard run by Jackson and 37-yarder by quarterback Gilbert for a 17-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Westside did a nice job getting back into the game after falling behind by 17, with quarterback Savion Knowlton scoring from 6 yards out to make it 17-7 with 7:34 left in the first half.
The teams then couldn’t get much going offensively until the Trojans took advantage of a short field after a shanked punt and drove 26 yards on five plays for Jackson’s score.
Peach County got a nice drive going after a Shamaracus Redding interception. The Trojans went 75 yards in 11 plays, with freshman Justin Harris catching Oliver’s pass and shedding a Westside tackler for a 28-yard score with 4:48 left in the game.
The Trojans’ defense kept the Seminoles in check during lulls on offense, allowing Westside only four snaps from the Peach County side of the field in the second half. One came on Knowlton’s head-turning 48-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-14 with 2:31 left in the game.
Four who mattered
Omar Jones and J.J. Banks: The Seminoles defenders’ put pressure all night on Gilbert, helping Westside record eight negative plays, including five on Gilbert.
Gilbert: Peach County’s quarterback was steady, breaking free on a 37-yard touchdown run while being efficient throwing the ball.
Gibson: Despite battling an ankle injury, he powered for 59 yards on 16 carries and added a nice 23-yard catch to set up the late touchdown.
Battle of kickers: The game featured three of the top place-kickers in the area, Mitchell Fineran and Omar Cervantes of Peach County and Blaine Halvorson of Westside. Fineran is a top-flight kicker on field goals, and Cervantes forced the Seminoles to start on the 20 four of five times. Halvorson did the same once.
Nice moment: Halftime provided a nice moment when Westside principal Dr. Julia Daniely made a presentation to the family of Raekwon Smith, the senior football player who died in a car accident on the Saturday before the season opener, of “love and condolences.”
They said it
Peach County head coach Chad Campbell: “I think we played three good quarters. We had a lull in the second quarter defensively. I think the second half, we played really good defense except for that (play) when we missed a lot of tackles on that last touchdown they had.”
Westside head coach Spoon Risper: “Peach is Peach. Our kids fought hard. We just not very athletic on the perimeter. That hurts for what we’re trying to do.”
Campbell on the good first quarter and what followed: “I said, ‘Listen, we need to get out to a fast start.’ And we did that, get up 17. I think we had that lull in the second quarter I talked about. We can’t do that. We can’t do that at all.”
Risper on missed chances: “I would like us to have caught some of the balls that were dropped. At Westside, we’re always used to having big-time receivers. We’re still trying to develop those guys.”
Campbell on a Peach County advantage: “The kicking game was big. I told them that all week. We had a short field over here and a short field down there. That led to points for us.”
Peach County is off before hosting Central on Oct. 7, while Westside hosts Jackson on Thursday.