From 0-3 to region champs: Turning point for Veterans

By David Purdum / For the AJC

Veterans High School lost its first three games by a combined score of 93-30. Having never experienced a winning season the program’s first three years, the Warhawks could have easily gone into a downward spiral after the 0-3 start.

Instead, Veterans won the Region 2-AAAA title.

The turning point came in Week 4, said coach David Bruce. Veterans had an 11-7 lead over then-No. 10 Westside and was setting up for a field goal with two seconds left in the first half. Westside blocked the kick, however, and returned it for a go-ahead touchdown.

“That was the kind of thing that previously would have sunk us,” said Bruce. “But this year, we talked at halftime about overcoming adversity. Sure enough, we take that third-quarter kickoff and take it all the way down the field and score. We didn’t look back from there. That was the turning point, to me, when our kids realized that we can play with good teams and beat good teams.”

The Warhawks went on to beat Westside 21-14, jumpstarting a six-game win streak that was capped by last week’s 10-0 shutout of No. 6 Mary Persons. The Veterans’ defense held Mary Persons to -27 yards rushing to clinch the school’s first region title.

Middle linebacker Will Nobles, the team’s leading tackler, and defensive tackle Cortez Broughton, who has committed to Middle Tennessee, have been the catalysts of a defense that has allowed an average of eight points per game in region play.

“There were a lot of licks passed out in that game,” said Bruce of the win over Mary Persons. “Being a defensive guy, I enjoyed watching that game.”

The Warhawks host Baldwin on Friday, before heading into the state playoffs for the first time. As the No. 1 seed out of Region 2-AAAA, Veterans will host the fourth seed out of Region 4 in the first round of the playoffs.

This week’s Class AAAA Region Play-in Games

(**Region championship: Winner wins region and makes state playoffs as No. 1 seed. *Play-in game: Winner makes state playoffs).

3-AAAA

**Wayne County at Burke County

*Statesboro at Glenn Hills

*Liberty County at Richmond Academy

South Effingham at Butler

Hephzibah at Cross Creek

4-AAAA

*Upson-Lee at Stockbridge

*Woodland (Stockbridge) at Griffin

*Locust Grove at Jonesboro

*Riverdale at Eagle’s Landing

Dutchtown at North Clayton

Mount Zion (Jonesboro) at Spalding (Thursday)

6-AAAA

**Carver at Marist

*Bannaker at Columbia (Avondale Stadium)

*Lithonia at Grady

Washington at Chamblee (North DeKalb Stadium)

Stone Mountain at Therrell (Lakewood Stadium)

South Atlanta at Redan (Avondale Stadium), Saturday

7-AAAA

**Dalton at Gilmer

*Northwest Whitfield at Pickens

*Ridgeland at Cedartown

Southeast Whitfield at Cass

Heritage (Ringgold) at River Ridge

Lafayette vs. Johnson (Gainesville)

Note: Positive news coming out of Cedartown, where defensive back Caleb Ely is recovering from a head injury that required brain surgery. Update here.

4 comments Add your comment

Sportsnut

November 5th, 2013
2:16 pm

First, Congratulations to Veterans. Nice job. Keep at it.

Now, I have torn thoughts for region 4 AAAA. All but Upson are Southern Crescent teams. Then it breaks down to County. With that in mind, I will be pulling for Riverdale over Eagles Landing, Jonesboro over Locust Grove, Griffin over Woodland=Stockbridge and Stockbridge over Upson-Lee.

I still think this system is wrong.

Old Bear

November 6th, 2013
12:00 am

Amen, Sportsnut. There couldn’t BE a more unfair system. Why not just pull the teams from a hat, since season records are essentially ignored?

I have a feeling Henry County’s school system insisted on this abomination.

Just a Fan

November 6th, 2013
9:01 am

Not sure but I think that the region coaches vote on the region playoff system(s).Sometimes you end up with some weird results.In regions that are subdivided the coaches in 1 division dont want the playoff teams to be dominated by the other one. May not be the case in all.

justanotherfan

November 6th, 2013
7:18 pm

Just a fan – you are correct. The region coaches did vote on this.