Greater Atlanta Christian stormed to an early lead and then held off a furious rally to beat Stone Mountain 34-26 in Spartans’ coach Tim Hardy’s first game.
The Spartans (1-0) seemed to have the game in hand after Corey Stevenson’s 1-yard touchdown gave them a 34-14 lead with seven minutes left in the game. But Stone Mountain (0-1) answered with two incredible plays on consecutive drives to cut the lead to 34-26. On both plays, Pirates’ quarterback Corderal Cook scrambled to evade Spartan defenders and then threw long passes downfield to Sammy Johnson. The second one, an 86-yard touchdown, gave the Pirates hope. But GAC ran out the clock to give Hardy a win in his coaching debut.
The Spartans were led by quarterback Rafe Chapple and the big-play running of Kyle Scales (18 carries for 126 yards), Corey Stevenson and Micah Abernathy. The Spartans finished with 231 yards rushing as the Class AA school carved through the Class AAAA Pirates. Stone Mountain’s Cook completed 10 of 14 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns, all to Johnson, who had three catches for 177 yards.
It looked as if Hardy, who came over from Mountain View, might have a cakewalk in his debut as the Spartans scored on their first three possessions to take early command of the game.
After a field goal by Brandon Holzgrefe, Chapple stood tall in the pocket, took an oncoming hit and found Darius Slayton in stride on a post pattern. The touchdown gave the Spartans a 10-0 lead. On their next possession Scales ran off right tackle, cut left and darted into the end zone for a 17-0 lead early in the second period.
The Spartans’ defense, meanwhile, controlled the Pirates’ offense, limiting them to three first downs in the first half. Trailing 17-2, Stone Mountain drove down to the GAC 12-yard line, but on fourth-and-2 Spartan linebacker Paul Carothers shot through the line to stuff Solomon Parker for no gain. Slayton’s good hands also led to the Spartans’ final points of the half when he intercepted a pass and returned it 51 yards to the Stone Mountain 24-yard line. Four plays later, Holzgrefe kicked another field goal, a 21-yarder, as time expired in the half.