WARRENTON, Ga. — The teams – one in blue jerseys, the other in white – walked to near midfield. When the players got there, some stood, others kneeled. But they were together.
Playing each other for the first time since their brawl a year ago, Hancock Central and Warren County were ready to show they have moved on.
After the two sides listened to a pregame talk, prayed together and exchanged handshakes, it was all about the Bulldogs’ defense and Warren County’s first-half offensive miscues.
The Screaming Devils’ snapping issues from the shotgun, along with a stingy Hancock Central defense and solid rushing attack, helped the Bulldogs end a seven-game losing streak in the series with a 26-0 win Friday night at Warren County.
“They played great,” Hancock Central coach Zackery Harris said of his defense. “We wanted to pressure them.”
The Screaming Devils had problems from the start, as Hancock Central recovered a fumble in the end zone on their second offensive play. The Bulldogs had given Warren County the ball moments earlier when quarterback Montkevious Fluellen lost a fumble after a 28-yard gain.
Fluellen and his backfield were impressive after that, with the Bulldogs rushing for more than 200 yards. Deonte Franklin had a game-best 71 yards.
Last year, the rivals had a postgame brawl in Sparta in which then-Warren County coach David Daniel got hit in the face. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was asked to look at the case, and in its report, each team blamed the other for instigating the brawl. A Hancock Central player admitted to hitting Daniel, but another player said it was only after Daniel hit first. Daniel has denied that.
No one was indicted, but the Georgia High School Association fined Hancock Central and put it on “severe warning status” for the next two school years
On Friday, Warren County had a stronger-than-usual security presence, and there were no problems.
Harris said he hoped the game proved the teams are OK with each other.
“That was the most important thing,” he said. “The outcome didn’t matter.”
Warren County’s snapping woes became such an issue at one point that it went from first-and-goal from about the 10 to fourth-and-goal near the 50. Then, with Richard Wilburn again from the shotgun, the snap went over his head for a 17-yard loss.
Because of the poor snaps, Warren County had negative-66 yards of offense in the first half.
The Screaming Devils worked from under center in the second half and had more success, but they were stopped on downs in Hancock Central territory on four different possessions.
Wilburn threw for 93 yards in the loss, their third in a row.
“We showed we can sustain a drive, we just need to finish and execute,” Warren County offensive coordinator Zach Houston said.