NORCROSS — Nine times out of 10, focus and great effort will get a team its desired result. Friday night was that one time.
Despite a stellar offensive effort and an excellent performance by Christian Stark, Wesleyan fell to Stone Mountain 36-35 in a back-and-forth game.
“It is indescribable, you had to watch it,” Wesleyan head coach Frank Pridgen said of his team’s effort. “To know who our kids are with just six seniors… to see the way we competed, (to lose) is disappointing.”
Stone Mountain delivered the first blow as it took the opening kickoff 50 yards on five plays and capped it with a 10-yard run on a reverse run by Jacquann Golden.
Stark, who rushed for 278 yards l would light up the scoreboard through the air with a 5-yard pass to Sam McWhorter to tie the game at seven. Stark was fantastic in the opening half, ripping off runs of 58 and 55 yards on his way to a 183-yard first half.
“Their defensive end kept crashing down on our running back so it left me with plenty of green for yards.” Stark said.
After tying the game in the second quarter, Wesleyan (0-3) shocked Stone Mountain with a surprise onside kick. After recovering the kick, Stark faked the handoff to his running back on the read option and darted up the middle for his second rushing score of the half.
“Our offensive identity is still emerging, Christian is doing a fantastic job with his running…offensively I’ve got no issue, I was proud of our defense too, (Stone Mountain) is an athletic team.
Stone Mountain (2-1) used its athleticism to make big plays in the game including two long touchdown passes in the first half.
After a competitive third quarter would left the game locked at 28, Wesleyan took the lead when Stark snuck in from a yard out to give his team the lead.
After forcing a turnover on the ensuing kickoff, Wesleyan had an opportunity to go up by two possessions, but the drive stalled and a short field goal attempt by Jordan Weaver just missed its mark.
Stone Mountain quarterback Corderal Cook, who threw for 196 yards, made one of the biggest plays of the game with a 20-yard run on fourth down to help set up the final score by running back Stephen Sheppard.
Cook amazed again as Stone Mountain converted the two point conversion (there is no overtime in non region games) as Cook, with a defender wrapped around his leg, found Michael Hector in the end zone while falling to the ground to give his team the final advantage.
“That two-point conversion … the kid throws it practically horizontal to the ground and makes the play,” Pridgen said.
Stark and Wesleyan would not be able to mount any late heroics as a tough loss left the Wolves hurt but hungry according to Pridgen.
“They (the players) need to rest …. they are angry and we are going to use that next week, we are still locked in,” Pridgen said.
Stone Mountain 14 7 7 8 36
Wesleyan 7 14 7 7 35
Stone Mountain: Jacquann Golden 10 run (Mark Chishibaji kick)
Wesleyan: Sam McWhorter 5 pass from Cristian Stark (Jordan Weaver kick) 3;44
Stone Mountain: Golden 40 pass from Cordelral Cook (Chishibaji kick) 2:45
Wesleyan: Stark 4 run (PAT blocked) 8:47
Wesleyan: Stark 10 run (Stark 2 run) 6:47
Stone Mountain: Arlonzo Simpson 34 pass from Cook (Chishibaji kick) 4:11
Wesleyan: John Krause 13 pass from Starks (Weaver kick) 8:55
Stone Mountain: Simpson 30 pass from Cook (Chishibaji kick) 7:21
Wesleyan: Stark 1 run (Weaver kick) 11:01
Stone Mountain: Stephen Sheppard 24 run (Hector 2 pass from Cook)