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Ground game powers GAC to victory over Rabun

GAC's Micah Abernathy

GAC's Micah Abernathy

NORCROSS — On a cold, rainy night, the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans were forced to turn from their prolific passing attack and rely more on their running game in order to advance to the second round of the Class AA playoffs.

“We knew the elements were going to affect ball security,” said GAC head coach Tim Hardy. “We had to grind and control the line of scrimmage with our running attack.”

After stalling on their first two drives of the game, the Spartans utilized their running attack to amass 281 yards, as they cruised to a 34-7 victory over the Rabun County Wildcats (8-3) on Friday night.

Micah Abernathy got the Spartans off on the right foot, keying a nine-play, 87-yard drive for the first score of the game. Abernathy recorded 50 yards on eight carries during the drive, while Paul Carothers capped it off with a 14-yard score, making it 6-0 in the first quarter.

Abernathy got into the end zone during the second quarter, taking a inside draw from 10 yards out, making 14-0 at the halfway point of the second. Quarterback Rafe Chapple added a late 6-yard TD run, extending the lead to 20-0 before the half.

GAC wasn’t only dominating the offensive trenches, as it held the Wildcats to a total of 198 yards and eight first downs all game. Most of Rabun County’s yardage came on 70-yard TD connection from QB Hunter Sims to Jordan Oliver on the right side of the field in the final minute of the final quarter to prevent the shutout.

“Defense was fantastic,” said Hardy. “Coach Shane Woodward did a great job of preparing our kids to buy into the plan and come out and execute his defense.”

The Spartans put the game out reach in the third quarter. Chapple, who had a modest game from the air, completing 7-of-11 for 46 yards, capped off two second-half scores with a 15-yard TD connection to Chris Williams and a 13-yard TD rush, extending the lead to 34-0.

While Chapple finished with two touchdowns on the ground and one from the air, Abernathy carried the load. The junior tailback rushed for a game-high 156 yards on 22 carries with a TD.

“We knew they were going to try and shut down our passing game,” said Abernathy. “We knew we would have to fight hard and run the ball. Once I got settled in and my mentality right, I was able to run the ball well.”

For Rabun County it was a sour ending to a terrific season, as the Wildcats fell in the first round of the AA playoffs for the second straight season. However, Rabun County enjoyed a terrific ride, recording eight wins, most victories since 1998, when they tallied 11.

“Anybody in Gwinnett County knows that (Rabun Co. Head Coach) Lee Shaw is a great coach and doing great things over there,” said Hardy about the Wildcats. “That’s a very good team and will be good for years to come.”

GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN 34, RABUN COUNTY 0

Rabun County- 0 0 0 7- 7

Greater Atlanta Christian- 6 14 14 0- 34

FIRST QUARTER

GAC- Paul Carothers 14 run (conversion fail) 2:19

SECOND QUARTER

GAC- Micah Abernathy 16 run (Rafe Chapple run conversion) 7:23

GAC- Chapple 6 run (conversion fail) 1:33

THIRD QUARTER

GAC- Chris Williams 15 pass from Chapple (Brandon Holzgrefe kick) 4:05

GAC- Chapple 13 run (Holzgrefe kick) 2:00

FOURTH QUARTER

Rabun County- Jordan Oliver 70 pass from Hunter Sims (Froy Hernandez kick) :38