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Ware rolls over SHS
Top-ranked Gators strike early, often
102414 SHS FOOTBALL 02 W
Ware County running back Laban Faulk, center, squeezes into the end zone between Statesboro High defenders Deangelo Housey, left, and Julian Harrison for a first-quarter touchdown Friday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    Ware County’s Raekwon Chatman took the opening kickoff 20 yards and never looked back. By the end of the night, Chatman had totaled 68 rushing yards, 26 receiving yards, and racked up 88 yards in kick returns.

Box Score
WCHS    21    7    6    6 — 40
SHS    0    0    0    7 — 7

First Quarter
WCHS_Chatman 61 run (Etheridge kick), 11:38
WCHS_Burley 31 fumble return (Etheridge kick), 10:53
WCHS_Faulk 10 pass from Hollmon (Etheridge kick), 1:37

Second Quarter
WCHS_Taylor 30 run (Etheridge kick), 1:15

Third Quarter
WCHS_Belcher 64 run (kick failed), 0:52

Fourth Quarter
SHS_Williams 4 run (Miller kick), 8:04
WCHS_ Turner 1 run (run failed), 2:51

    WCHS    SHS
First downs    17    12
Total Yards    388    224
Rushes-yards    38-327    41-218
Passing    61    6
Comp-Att-Int    6-10-0    1-7-1
Turnovers    0    2
Penalties-Yards    6-60    3-35

RUSHING_WCHS, Belcher 9-107. SHS, Williams 22-155
PASSING_WCHS, Hollmon 6-10-0-61. SHS, Williams 1-3-0-6
RECEIVING_WCHS, Chatman 2-26. SHS, Wilson 1-6

Three keys to Ware County's victory over SHS...
    Ware County invaded Womack Field as the top-ranked team in Class AAAAA and wasted no time in showing the crowd why. The Gators scored 14 points in the first 67 seconds of play. With Ware’s stingy defense and Statesboro’s suspect offense, the Devils were never really in contention.
    Even before Ware County sent in its reserves, there was no shortage of Gators getting in on the fun. In all, 10 different players carried the ball for Ware County while Hollmon found four different receivers for his six completions.
    The huge Gator offensive line was going to be a problem no matter what the Devils tried. When senior defensive lineman Brandon Maple went down with an injury in the first half, the Gators showed no mercy. Ware ran straight at Maple’s spot on the line through much of the second half to keep the chains moving.

Statesboro entered Friday night's game on a two-game winning streak, but the top-ranked Gators from Ware County brought it to a screeching halt.

The top-ranked Gators (8-0, 6-0 Region 3-AAAAA) scored twice in the first 67 seconds and never looked back, easily running up a 40-7 victory over the Blue Devils (2-6, 2-4) at Womack Field.

"Ware showed why they're so highly regarded," SHS coach Steve Pennington said. "I thought we gave a good effort. All due respect to our guys, but we just weren't on their level."

Ware County's Raekwon Chatman took the opening kickoff back to the Gators' 39, but that was just the opening act. On Ware's first play from scrimmage, Chatman took a handoff through the middle of the line, bounced off of two Blue Devil defenders and raced 61 yards to the end zone.

Still staggered from the early strike, Statesboro's offense took the field, only to cough up the ball on its second play.

Gator safety Sammy Burley charged into the fray and, when the ball squirted out of the pile, he was waiting to take it 31 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead at the 10:53 mark of the first quarter.

"That really took the wind out of our sails," Pennington said. "We've been doing what we can to put some wind in our sails. To have that happen right off the bat made things even more difficult."

Statesboro's defense was able to slow down the Gators on their next possession, but that only delayed the scoring.

Xavier Hollmon (6 of 10, 61 yards) drove his team deep into Blue Devil territory and connected with Laban Faulk on a 10-yard strike to make it a 21-0 Ware lead after the first quarter.

The Devils found some success with a wildcat-style attack in the second quarter. Mahlon Williams (22 carries, 155 yards) did the lion's share of the work in driving Statesboro into scoring position, but the Gators dug in and the drive stalled.

"We were able to find a few things that worked for us," Pennington said. "What we have to do now is find a way to build off of it moving forward. We need to have more than just the one threat."

Ryan Miller attempted to get SHS on the board with a 29-yard field goal, but his kick was blocked.

Six plays later Quayshawn Taylor broke through the middle for a 30-yard touchdown run to make it 28-0 Gators at the half.

Jarvis Belcher led Ware County with 107 rushing yards on just nine carries and put the game away late in the third quarter as he eluded a gang of SHS defenders and escaped for a 64-yard romp.

With a running clock ticking down the fourth quarter, Williams again stood behind center in the wildcat formation and again found success. The Devils made good on their starters' final possession as Williams powered in from 4 yards out for Statesboro's only points.

Ware's second string closed the scoring as Jordan Turner plunged in from a yard out with just under three minutes to play.

Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.