MONROE, Ga. — Gavin Hall had a memorable varsity debut.
The George Walton Academy freshman started at quarterback for the Bulldogs and led his team to a 35-7 victory over cross-county rival Social Circle Friday night at Don Williams Stadium.
It helped that he didn’t have to put the team on his young shoulders. Rather, he just had to get the ball to a trio of returning playmakers.
Seniors Jackson Ellerbee and Jake Whitten and junior Laythan Folgman combined for over 200 yards, all in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs defense grounded the Redskins “Air Raid” offense, holding the pass-happy unit to just 136 and adding a score to put the game out of reach.
It was GWA’s fifth straight and most dominant win over Social Circle. GWA head coach Shane Davis pulled most of his offensive starters early in the third quarter and the fourth quarter was played with a running clock.
The Redskins avoided their second straight shutout at the hands of the Bulldogs when third-string quarterback Johnny Crowe connected with Grayson Jenkins on a 13-yard TD pass with just a minute left in the game.
“Our thought our kids played physical,” Davis said. “We made some big plays at the end of the first half and early in the second that turned the game around.
Social Circle had a prime opportunity to get back in the game late in the second quarter when Bulldogs back Whitten fumbled on his own 12 yard line and Phillip Baynes recovered for the Redskins. But the Bulldogs defense stopped Social Circle on four plays, holding it to just two yards.
Leading 21-0 at the half, the Bulldogs quickly snuffed out any hopes of a Social Circle comeback in the first two minutes of the second half.
On the first play of the third quarter, Redskins quarterback lofted a lateral into the right flat that fell behind the receiver O.J. Smith. GWA junior linebacker Bradyn Sorrow scooped up the loose ball and rambled 35 yards for a score, the first of his career.
The Redskins went three-and-out on their next possession and it took the Bulldogs just two plays to get back in the end zone on a 51-yard sprint up the middle by Hall for his second touchdown of the night.
He finished with three carries for 62 yards and completed four passes for 89 yards.
After being stopped on its first possession of the game, GWA scored the next three times it touched the ball, all on five-play drives.
Hall scored the Bulldogs first touchdown of the new season midway through the first quarter on a 4-yard run. It was set up by a pair of runs of 42 and 13 yards by Whitten, who finished with 73 yards on five carries.
He then tossed the first touchdown of his career on the Bulldogs next possession, a swing pass in the right flat to Ellerbee, who sprinted in a 65-yard for a touchdown. The senior back added 46 yards on 15 carries.
Whitten scored GWA’s next points on a 1-yard dive, set up by a 47-yard run by Folgman, who led all Bulldogs rushers with 93 yards on just three carries.
Despite the impressive score, the Bulldogs displayed their youth. They fumbled three times, including once inside the red zone, and were flagged for 70 yards in penalties.
“We had some miscues and breakdowns out there,” Davis said. “But the kids played hard and we’ll get those things cleaned up.”
The Redskins will have plenty of housekeeping to do as well. Despite returning three of the top offensive players in the county, they could never generate any consistency against GWA. On the other side, the defense gave up five plays of 30-plus yards.
The Redskins will be back on the road next Friday to face Providence Christian while the Bulldogs will travel to Macon to face former GISA rival Stratford Academy.