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.
(**Region championship: Winner wins region and makes state playoffs as No. 1 seed. *Play-in game: Winner makes state playoffs).
**Wayne County at Burke County
*Statesboro at Glenn Hills
*Liberty County at Richmond Academy
South Effingham at Butler
Hephzibah at Cross Creek
*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)
**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
**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.