ATLANTA, Ga. — The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets — future homes of Newton High standouts Jaquan Henderson and Josh Tukes — played their annual Gold vs. White spring football game to approximately 8,000 fans in Historic Bobby Dodd Stadium on Friday night.
The Gold team came out on top, 21-16, winning in come-from-behind fashion when fifth-year senior Brady Swilling brought in a pass and rumbled 61 yards for the deciding score with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter. And although Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson clearly wasn’t about to take the spring game results too seriously, Johnson definitely didn’t mind expressing his pleasure in what he saw, particularly from his younger and more unproven players.
“It was kind of a fun game for us,” Johnson said. “What you saw was a culmination of spring practice and the work those guys did. Our guys flew around and had some fun.”
It came at the expense of a few injuries, however, as several of Tech’s top receivers went down early on, even as potential 2017 starting quarterback Matthew Jordan was held out as he recovers from a foot injury.
“We had more people dinged up in that spring game than we did in all of spring ball,” Johnson said. “We were down our first four wide receivers in the first quarter. Hopefully those things weren’t too serious.
With Jordan down, all eyes were on the younger, untested signal callers such as redshirt freshman Lucas Johnson, junior TaQuon Marshall and redshirt freshman Jay Jones. It was Chase Martenson who found Swilling on the game winner toward the end of the fourth quarter, but the aforementioned three got a good bulk of the action.
Each showed promise — for instance, Johnson wasted no time showing his skill, as the 6-foot-3, 200 pounder found the end zone on a 70-yard touchdown run on his second play from scrimmage. It gave the Gold team a 7-3 lead at the 8:42 mark in the first quarter.
Johnson showed good touch on several balls through the night — even the passes that fell incomplete. But perhaps his prettiest ball of the night was a 23 yard scoring strike to Xavier Gant late in the fourth quarter that gave the Gold team a 16-14 advantage.
Jones and Marshall showed spurts of excellence as well. Jones, who’d been somewhat of a favorite during the spring, showed his burst when he took an option keeper to the same sideline as Johnson’s 70 yard score, and darted down the field for a 58 yard gain. But on the very next play, Jones fumbled the ball, turning it over to the Gold team, and drawing a little ire from his head coach.
“I don’t think (the quarterbacks) played as well (Friday night) as they did most of the spring,” Johnson said. “Especially when you talk about the play action game and ball security. Jay (Jones) had that thing all over the place. He had the fumble there. I mean, he’s gonna make something happen one way or the other. I just wish he had done a better job executing ball security.”
Johnson was also high on tailbacks B-Backs Kirvonte Benson and Quaide Weimerskirch. Benson scored on a five yard touchdown run and finished with 61 yards, while Weimerskirch rain hard, even hurdling a defender on what particular run.
“It was kind of a different game for us as far as running the ball with our backs,” Johnson said. “But I think both Quaide and KirVante did some good things. If I had to pick a No. 2 B-back right night, those two would probably be 2-A and 2-B.”
But Johnson said he would advice Weimerskirch to keep his feet on the ground.
“That’s the second time this spring he’s jumped a guy,” Johnson said. “He’s gonna get himself killed. I wouldn’t advice that he keep doing that if I were him.”
Johnson also praised for being “a gamer,” and said he liked the way his defense flew around, particularly linebacker Brant Mitchell. Lance Austin, Tyler Cooksey and Tyler Merriweather were also lauded for their performances. But Johnson reinforced the fact that the game did very little to assuage his concerns for what still needs to be improved.
“I think overall, we just had a good spring practice,” he said. “I don’t get too hung up on the (spring) game though. All and all, I think we definitely got better as a team. But we’ve still got a whole lot of things we need to work on.”