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South Atlanta gets defensive in win over Washington

By Jamie Walker

South Atlanta’s run game and defense paved the way for a dramatic first win of the season. | PHOTO: Bailey Stevens

ATLANTA, Ga. — South Atlanta came into this Friday evening contest with an 0-2 record,  searching for its first win of the 2020 season against a Washington team that had already tasted victory this year, winning its season opener against Kendrick. But after falling last Friday to Lovett, the Bulldogs wanted to return to their winning ways. 

That backdrop setup a battle of wills between the Hornets and Bulldogs at Lakewood Stadium that had the drama and back-and-forth intrigue of two teams desperately vying for early season momentum. But it was South Atlanta emerging with a 20-19 victory, thanks largely to a huge, late-game defensive stop. 

After a late South Atlanta touchdown that put the Hornets up 20-13, Washington got the ball back and started a methodical scoring drive that ended with when Bulldogs quarterback Monye Jones threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Armani Tookes with 48 seconds left in regulation. 

Perhaps seeking to avoid a tie or a decision to play overtime—given that it was a non-region contest—Washington decided, after kicking extra points all night, to go for two and the likely win.  Jones ran a quarterback sneak, but was stopped at the 1-yard line by the Hornets’ defense, keeping the score 20-19, South Atlanta. The Bulldogs tried an onside kick, but South Atlanta recovered the ball and ran out the clock to secure the win.

South Atlanta imposed its run-game dominance from the opening drive of the game. In fact, the Hornets didn’t throw a pass the entire drive and capped it on a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback John Lawton with 7:13 left in the first quarter.  South Atlanta missed the 2-point conversion try, so the score remained 6-0.  

Washington started the ensuing drive deep in its own territory, and the Hornets’ defense rose to the occasion, sacking Jones in the end zone and scoring a safety a 8-0 with 5:48 still left in the first quarter.  But the Bulldogs retaliated on the free kick when a Washington special teamer ripped the ball out of the South Atlanta player’s hands as he attempted to field it.  

The forced turnover allowed Washington to start a new drive near South Atlanta’s 35-yard line of South Atlanta and on the second play of the drive, Jones went up top to Ronnie West on a 22-yard scoring strike. The touchdown and extra point made it 8-7, South Atlanta, at the 5:03 mark of the opening quarter.  

Washington took the lead in the second quarter, utilizing its passing game once again with Jones connecting with Taj Moore on a 17-yard touchdown pass. A missed extra point kept it 13-8, Washington.

Both teams found it hard to move the ball in the third quarter. South Atlanta finally got a break when it recovered a muffed punt from Washington and took over at the Bulldogs’ 36-yard line.  Two plays later Lawton used his arm to score as he completed a 26-yard touchdown pass to running back Keyjuan Brown. 

South Atlanta junior quarterback John Lawton looks for a receiver downfield. | PHOTO: Bailey Stevens

The two-point conversion failed, but the Hornets were back on top 14-13 with 11:50 left in the game.  After a few drives stalled for both teams, Brown put the Hornets on the board again, this time on a 19-yard scamper that made it 20-13, with just 2:17 left in the game, and before the game-winning theatrics took place.

The win caused both teams to come out of Friday with a 1-2 record. But for South Atlanta, it was continued recent dominance against Washington, as it marked the Hornets’ second straight win over the Bulldogs and their third victory in the last four games. This coming after a stretch where Washington won the first 13 meetings between the schools, dating back to 1996. 

South Atlanta will travel to Lovett (2-1) Friday.

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Gabriel Stovall

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