Running back Evan Jones and quarterback Justin Holman provided the touchdowns, but it was the Stephenson defense that made the difference as the Jaguars pulled away in the second half for a 35-6 victory over East Paulding in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs Friday in Dallas.
Jones rushed for 171 yards on 22 carries and scored two second-half touchdowns, and Holman had a touchdown run and a TD pass for Stephenson, which advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2006. It was the first road playoff victory for in school history for Stephenson (9-2), the runner-up in Region 6-AAAAA.
East Paulding (11-1) was the Region 5-AAAAA champion and trying to reach the quarterfinals for the third consecutive season. The Raiders fell one game short of tying the school record for victories.
East Paulding came in averaging 394 yards per game, but it was limited to 150 total yards and only 37 in the second half by Stephenson. East Paulding ran 12 plays on its first four possessions of the second half and gained yardage on just two.
East Paulding’s Kamani Thomas and Kyler Neal each rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season, but they were held to a combined 82 yards on 16 carries, which included a 36-yard run by Neal in the first quarter.
East Paulding never got close to the end zone, but it didn’t need to in the first half to come away with points. Kicker Miles Hemphill gave the Raiders a big lift on the final play before halftime when he kicked a 61-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-6. It was the third-longest field goal in state history, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association. Hemphill had kicked a 47 yarder four minutes earlier.
But Stephenson quickly reestablished control. Jones ran 56 yards for a score on the second play of the third quarter to make it 14-6, and the Jaguars got the ball back two plays later when East Paulding quarterback Mitchell Webb was intercepted by Cameron Glenn near midfield. Stephenson drove to the East Paulding 30, where Holman threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Dexter Neal on fourth-and-8.
The Jaguars’ defense took over from there.
Stephenson – 0-7-14-14 – 35
East Paulding – 0-6-0-0 – 6
S – Justin Holman 1 run (Wisdom Nzidee kick)
E – Miles Hemphill 47 field goal
E – Hemphill 61 field goal
S – Evan Jones 56 run (Nzidee kick)
S – Dexter Neal 30 pass from Holman (Nzidee kick)
S – Jones 5 run (Nzidee kick)
S – Dejuan Beck 18 run (Nzidee kick)