By Scott Smith Senior Correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org
SUWANEE - Peachtree Ridge's highly touted defense made an impressive statement Friday night as the 10th-ranked Lions shut out Collins Hill 21-0 in the Region 7-AAAAA opener for both schools.
Even though the Lions (2-1, 1-0) were playing without Virginia Tech comitment Cameron Demps, who was suspended for violating team rules, Peachtree Ridge kept the momentum in its favor all night long. The Lions forced four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions) and held the Eagles to just 74 yards total offense.
"I was real proud of the guys. They really stepped up and played hard tonight," Peachtree Ridge head coach Bill Ballard said. "They (Collins Hill) have played a real tough schedule so far and had some tough teams to start off the year. We were worried about that and thought they would come out fighting."
Friday's game was the second straight time Collins Hill (0-3, 0-1) has been shut out and marked the first time in school history that the Eagles have started a season 0-3.
Peachtree Ridge actually didn't take advantage of the first two turnovers it forced, one a fumble by Charles Perkins that was recovered by Vincent Brown and the other a muffed punt recovered by Derrick Bryant.
The possession after Bryant's recovery led to a botched field goal attempt. Collins Hill regained possession but couldn't move the ball and was forced to punt.
Bryant came up big on the punt and returned it 21 yards to the Eagles' 36 to set up a short field. On the next play, quarterback Asher Clark ran the option right, kept the ball and danced 36 yards for the touchdown.
In the third quarter, Bryant showed why he is an LSU commit by stepping in front of a Brent McDonald pass and returning it 20 yards for a TD and a 14-0 lead.
"We have a pretty good defense but our problem is sustaining drives and scoring on offense," Collins Hill head coach Larry Sherrill said. "We have promising things turn bad because of penalties and turnovers and our defense plays too many snaps. Tonight, all the things we did were self inflicted and we weren't able to overcome those adversities."
Another big play on special teams set up the Lions' last score when the Eagles were forced to punt for the fifth time with four seconds left in the third. Punter Sean Binner leaped to pull down a high snap and that allowed Brown enough time to come through the line and block Binner's kick.
Starting from the Eagles' 27-yard line, the Lions needed just four plays to score, capped off with a 4-yard run by Ronnie Smith.
On the night, Peachtree Ridge rushed for 132 yards, led by 48 yards on 13 carries from Clark, while Brandon Davis tallied 47 yards on 15 rushes. The Eagles' defense also did a nice job of holding down the Lions' passing game as Clark completed just 4 of 12 attempts for 39 yards.
For Collins Hill, McDonald fared a little better in the passing game with 67 yards on 6 of 13 passes but did have the one costly interception.
PEACHTREE RIDGE 21
COLLINS HILL 0
Peachtree Ridge: Asher Clark 36 run (Greg Johnson kick) 4:50
Peachtree Ridge: Derrick Bryant 20 INT return (Johnson kick) 3:49
Peachtree Ridge: Ronnie Smith 4 run (Johnson kick) 10:43