Corey Campbell and his Hephzibah teammates stepped foot on their new football field for the first time Thursday. For 10 minutes, they enjoyed their lush surroundings. Then a contractor shooed them away.
When the Rebels returned Friday evening, everything was in place. Students, faculty and alumni, most of them wearing dark colors in support of the team's Blackout, helped fill almost every seat inside the school's new 5,200-seat stadium.
The stadium. The support. And Hephzibah's 38-0 win over Butler. It was almost too much for Campbell.
"I can't find any words," the senior lineman said, "to express my feelings."
Rebels coach John Bowen didn't want to use the word "perfection" for his team's debut. The Rebels, who have high expectations this season, notched a region win over their rival. But Bowen still found a few flaws on both sides of the ball.
"We were a little sloppy," he said. "But we came out and got a good result. ... There's plenty enough we can improve from tonight's performance."
Hephzibah's game preparation began early, as the school held a tailgate party before opening ceremonies. Then, dignitaries spoke. The school choir sang. Three paratroopers later landed at midfield, flying in the American flag.
It was a big night for the Rebels. And it only got bigger shortly after the opening kickoff.
Hephzibah scored on its first two drives, with Demetrius Washington plowing in twice from short distances. Later, Gary Robinson fielded a punt at the Butler 45, found trouble left and darted right, diving into the end zone. The Rebels led 20-0.
Hephzibah took advantage of superior field position, with four of its five opening drives starting inside Butler territory.
The Rebels' ground game piled up 239 yards on 39 carries. Antoine Nabors led the way with 79 yards on 13 carries.
Butler (0-1) extended its losing streak to 22 games. The Bulldogs' offense opened with a 23-yard pass from Kendariss Brown to J.P. Ryan. Butler moved past midfield, but on fourth and 2, Brown lost a fumble that Hephzibah's Washington recovered. After the play, Brown, the starting senior quarterback, limped off the field and did not return until late in the fourth quarter.
"His ankle didn't look too good," Butler coach Galen Phil-lips said, adding he's unsure of the extent of the injury.
The Bulldogs didn't gain another first down. Phillips said some of his team's woes stemmed from having to play 10 underclassmen.
"We've just got to grow," he said.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com.
HEPHZIBAH 38, BUTLER 0
PLAY OF THE GAME: Hephzibah's Gary Robinson fielded a punt at the Butler 45, found trouble left, darted right and dove into the end zone, giving the Rebels a 20-0 lead.
WHY HEPHZIBAH WON: Running game. The Rebels employed 11 rushers and gained 239 yards on 39 carries.
WHY BUTLER LOST: Lack of offense. Butler's Wing-T offense took a big hit when starting QB Kendariss Brown limped off the field after the first series. The offense never recovered.
STAR OF THE GAME: Hephzibah defense. The Rebels held the Bulldogs to minus-15 yards rushing on 23 carries.
WHAT'S NEXT: Butler at Richmond Academy, 7:30 p.m. Friday. Hephzibah at Josey, 7:30 p.m. Friday.