South Gwinnett's Jordan Ramey
LAWRENCEVILLE -- By the time Central Gwinnett's offense got going, it was too late.
South Gwinnett allowed 21 second-half points, but the stingy first half turned in by the Comets defense made the hole too deep for the Black Knights to climb out of in a 42-28 South Gwinnett win.
"We've been talking about playing a complete ballgame, we haven't played one yet and I thought for 22 minutes and 15 seconds we played a complete ball game," said South head coach John Small.
And it started with defense.
Until Central scored on its final drive of the second quarter, the South defense silenced the Black Knights, starting with an interception by Mason Hart on the opening possession of the game. With less than two minutes left in the half, the South defense had harassed Central's quarterback Eman Westmoreland, limiting the senior to just 10 passing yards and sacking him three times. Two of the sacks came courtesy of senior lineman Weston Simmons. Mixed with six first-half penalties by the Comets and some early dropped passes, Central found very little offense.
"We shot ourselves in the foot so much in the first half," Central coach Todd Wofford said. "Any kind of way you can shoot yourself in the foot, we did it. We have to execute a lot better.
And all that defense gave the Comets' offense plenty of opportunities.
After failing to convert on fourth down from the Central 11, South scored on four of its next five possessions, starting with Jordan Ramey finding L.J. Gainey for a 62-yard touchdown pass. In the first half alone, Ramey completed 11 of his 15 passes for 240 yards. He found Gainey five times for 147 of those yards including receptions of 62 and 53.
The 53-yard reception set up South's fourth touchdown, a 2-yard run by Travon Davis to make it 26-0 with 1:59 left in the second quarter.
Then came the lapse.
Westmoreland completed his final four passes for 74 yards, highlighted by a 41-yard completion down the sideline to Justin Brownlee. The drive ended with Westmoreland punching the ball in the end zone to make it 26-7 at halftime. Brownlee ended the game with 121 yards on five catches.
"He started off slow," Wofford said of Westmoreland. "As soon as he got going on that drive (he improved)."
South struck quickly in the third quarter to put the game nearly out of reach. Ramey hit Coray Keel for a 38 yard touchdown and then the Comets tossed in a little trickery with receiver Bernard Morrision hitting Keel for a 77-yard score and a 39-7 lead. Ramey completed just three passes in the second half, ending the game with 277 yards on 13 of 19 with a pair of touchdowns. He also rushed for a score.
"We've got some kids that can make plays," Small said. " Our kids are playing unselfish. I am very proud of them."
But the offense Central found at the end of the first half returned and the Black Knights scored twice more in the third quarter making a comeback a possibility. But as Central was driving and trailing 39-21, Westmoreland injured his ankle and needed to be carried off the field. He never returned and Central's comeback attempted vanished, despite more than 100 yards in penalties for the Comets.
"The first 22 minutes, I thought we played flawless," Small said. "We have to learn how to finish game."