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Last week, Terrance Walker and the Banks County Leopards’ offense did a lot of damage in putting up 50 points. This week, it was the defense’s turn to take center stage against one of Class AA’s best offenses.
After giving up 10 first-half points to one of Class AA’s top-scoring teams – Social Circle Redskins – the Leopards’ defense pitched a shutout in the second half and helped propel the team to a 32-10 region-opening win Friday night. The Leopards (2-2, 1-0 Region 8-AA) will host Oglethorpe County next Friday.
The defense was able to force Social Circle quarterback Tate Peters into seven negative-yardage plays and one interception, which Ben Duckett was the recipient of. Social Circle had scored 93 points in two games entering Friday night’s contest. The Leopards only allowed 251 total yards.
Head coach Jay Reid said his team is going to “savor” the victory for a couple of days.
“Defensively, we’ve got a bunch of kids who fly around and hit people,” he said. “That’s the name of the game.
“They’re cleaning up their techniques and limiting some of the missed tackles. We’ve still got to clean up some of that.”
The biggest key to the defense’s success is communication, according to Reid.
“That’s a big aspect of this game defensively,” Reid explained. “I always tell the kids, ‘If you’re not talking, you’re not playing defense.’
“I’ll give credit where credit is due, Braxton Simpson does a great job as far as working with me on the signals. He picks up stuff that I throw and I don’t make any sense when I do it, but he picks it up. He knows it and does a great job of leading that group on the interior. Defensive backs played pretty well. We had a couple that a got away from us, but overall we played really well back there, I think.”
Even in a rout, Reid said his team needs to clean up its penalties. The Leopards were penalized eight times for 75 yards. But both the defense and the offense were able to overcome those. Offensively, Walker’s stellar play from last week continued as he rushed for 187 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. Sean Hall rushed for 93 yards on eight carries. Jacob Lehotsky scored two rushing touchdowns.
“I think you’re starting to see the potential of this team,” Reid said. “They’re starting to come together and play together.”
Points were scarce in the opening quarter. Hall ripped off the Leopards’ biggest play in the first quarter with a 29-yard run on the game’s opening drive. Social Circle got on the board first with a 32-yard field goal with 11:53 left in the first half.
The Leopards responded with a 13-play, 70-yard drive, which ended with a Walker 4-yard touchdown run. The Leopards led 7-3 with 6:23 left in the half.
The Redskins found a response of their own, mainly on the legs of Peters. Peters rushed for four first downs on the Redskins’ drive and capped it off with a 6-yard run to the end zone.
It was the Redskins’ final scoring of the game, and the 10-7 lead didn’t last long as the Leopards needed only four plays just before halftime to regain the lead. Walker stampeded 81 yards for his second touchdown. The Leopards led 13-10 at halftime.
After the defense forced an opening second-half punt, the Leopards’ offense needed only three plays to extend the lead to 19-10. The touchdown came via a Lehotsky 1-yard run.
The Redskin’s next possession ended with Duckett’s interception of Peters. The Leopards’ defense stalled the Redskins’ next possession, too, and smothered Peters on a fake punt attempt for a loss 13 yards.
With a short field, the Redskins’ 34-yard line, the Leopards needed only five plays to find the end zone. The score was a Lehotsky 6-yard run. The lead was 25-10 with 7:29 left in the game.
Walker scored the Leopards’ final touchdown on a 42-yard run with 5:55 left in the game.