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Wesleyan 45, Whitefield 13

NORCROSS -- As good as Wesleyan is, the Wolves are bound to eventually have a close game.

It certainly didn't happen Friday night, though.

Just as dominant as it had been during the regular season, No. 1-ranked Wesleyan opened the Class A state playoffs with a 45-13 rout of visiting Whitefield Academy at Henderson Stadium.

Kyle Karempelis scored three touchdowns while becoming Wesleyan's all-time rushing leader and the Wolves' first-team defense once again didn't come close to giving up a touchdown.

The junior running back gained 146 yards on 18 carries and broke the career record on a 39-yard TD in the third quarter before Wesleyan turned the game over to its reserves.

"He was real close and I wanted to go ahead and get him the record," Wesleyan coach Franklin Pridgen said. "It's a testament to Kyle and all the players who have blocked for him."

Karempelis had 2,388 rushing yards as a sophomore as the Wolves won the state championship and he has 1,350 yards on the ground this season despite rarely carrying the ball much in the second half.

"I'm looking forward to playing a whole game," Karempelis said. "I think we all would like a close game."

The rout of Whitefield Academy increased the defending champion Wolves' winning streak to 22 and set up a second-round home game with No. 10-ranked Bowdon next weekend.

Bowdon, 10-1 and the No. 2 seed from Region 6-A, should give the Region 8-A champion Wolves (11-0) their first real test of season.

They certainly haven't had one yet, with all except two games decided by 30 points or more.

The closest game Wesleyan had during the regular season was a 28-3 victory over Region 8-A runner-up Commerce. The Wolves beat Region 5 champ Holy Innocents' 28-2.

Wesleyan led 45-0 in its playoff opener after Karempelis' third TD late in the third quarter and all Whitefield could do is make the final score look a little better.

"I think we're a better team than last year because we have more confidence now," Karempelis said. "We know what we can do and we know what it takes to win the championship."

Karempelis is also an even better running back, even if his totals aren't quite as good this season as last.

"What sets him apart is his vision," Pridgen said. "He sees cracks that other backs just wouldn't see."

With Wesleyan big and talented linemen up front, the holes are almost always there.

"I've been very fortunate to run behind great offensive lines my whole career," Karempelis said.

Wesleyan drove 73 yards on 11 plays after receiving the opening kickoff and that was the hardest the Wolves had to work while building a 31-0 halftime lead.

Karempelis capped the opening drive with a 4-yard TD run and Welton scored on a sneak from inside the 1-yard line on the first play of the second quarter after fullback Drew Widner and ripped off a 32-yard gain.

Harrison Cheeley caught a 4-yard TD pass from Welton the next time the Wolves had the ball and the rout was on. An overthrown pass by Whitefield's Goudiss was intercepted by sophomore Zander Yost and returned 73 yards for Wesleyan's third TD of the second quarter and then Spencer Short tacked on a 40-yard field with 1:40 remaining before halftime.

Goudiss threw 19 passes in the first half, but completed just five. Welton, meanwhile, connected on nine of his first 10 passes and finished 12 of 17 for 150 yards in less than three full quarters.

Karempelis scored his second TD from a yard out in the third quarter and then broke off his record-breaking run for a third score. He has 23 rushing TDs this season.

Wesleyan has outscored its opponents 454-38. Now that's domination.