CUMMING - Every practice begins with about an hour of work on special teams. It paid off in Friday's 33-0 Peachtree Ridge win at North Forsyth.
"Our special teams has hurt us this year when we weren't ready, so that's a big focus for us," Lions head coach Bill Ballard said. "Our guys on special teams, we tell them they're starters. That part of the ball game is just as important as any other part."
Peachtree Ridge (3-1 overall, 2-0 in 7-AAAAA) began every first-half drive in Raiders' territory, while North Forsyth (3-1, 1-1 in 7-AAAAA) had to start each drive inside its own 20. Senior return man Brad Roby ran back four punts for an average of 21 yards each time for the Lions. Meanwhile, the Peachtree Ridge kickoff coverage unit limited the Raiders to 10.5 yards per return. It proved to be the difference in a game in which both teams struggled to find the end zone.
"Bradley had a real good night returning the football," Ballard said. "We thought we had real good blocking on those special teams. We've been really working on getting on your guy. Don't take that play off, make sure that's a play where we can score."
Four of the Lions' seven trips inside the red zone ended in field goal attempts, which junior place kicker Justin Watts converted from 35, 31, 47 and 32 yards. The disparity in field position meant four of the Raiders' possessions instead ended in punts.
Peachtree Ridge drove 44 yards for a touchdown on its first possession, a drive that was capped off by a 15-yard strike from senior quarterback Nick Lombardo to senior wideout Nasir Moore.
The Lions' next two drives ended in field goals before they hit paydirt again on a 16-yard TD run by Steve Atwater.
North Forsyth closed out the half with a 13-play drive that fell short at the six as time expired.
Peachtree Ridge opened the second half with another pair of field goals on its first two drives and didn't find the end zone again until it went for it on fourth-and-goal from the five with less than two minutes to play. Senior running back Brandon Stanley got around the left side, and dove across the plane before getting shoved out of bounds.
Lombardo finished the game 7-for-13 with 118 yards and a touchdown for the Lions. Roby totaled a team-high 46 rushing yards on one carry, but it was Chris Sawdey who carried the load to the tune of 44 yards on nine carries. Stanley finished with 40 yards on eight carries. Peachtree Ridge held the Raiders to 166 yards of total offense.