After showing improvement and progress in its second game of the season, Bethlehem Christian Academy put it all together Friday, Sept. 25, to notch its first victory of the Bruce Lane era.

Senior running back Chad Norwood had a career night — rushing for five first-half touchdowns and adding a kickoff return for a score in the second half — as the Knights throttled Augusta Prep 42-12 in Martinez to improve to 1-2 on the season.

Now, the Knights will look to even their record Friday, Oct. 2, when they host Southwest Georgia Academy out of Damascus for homecoming.

“Obviously, our kids were very excited about the win, but I think we as coaches were more excited about how they competed all night,” said Lane of the BCA’s second victory in as many seasons over Augusta Prep (2-2). “We really played well against an improved football team. Our kids came out and prepared really well all week. The coaches did a good job of getting them ready to play. And we were happy to be able to play all of our kids and get them some snaps in a game situation. Overall, it was a very successful night.”

BCA left no doubt early on, scoring on each of its possessions in the first half. Norwood, who finished with 250 yards on 13 carries, scored on runs of 67 and 79 yards in the first quarter and then tacked on three more touchdowns in the second quarter (79, 10 and 2 yards) as the Knights built a 35-0 halftime lead. Norwood’s 70-yard kick return came in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 42-6 after the Cavaliers’ first score of the night.

It was a true breakout performance for Norwood, who burst onto the scene in earnest last season for the Knights’ backfield.

“Chad really has a chance to be the best tailback I’ve coached in quite a while,” the veteran Lane said. “He’s got tremendous work ethic that he brings to the practice, and I think he flipped a switch over the summer in terms of his preparation and commitment to what we’re trying to get done. I was really excited about how he played, but also those long runs came with some great blocking downfield, and it was awfully good to hear him say that, too, afterward.

Along with Norwood’s heroics, senior quarterback Ethan Guthas was sharp for the Knights, going 6-of-7 for 94 yards with a dropped pass accounting for the only incompletion.

Defensively, BCA was led by Chandler Cavoretto, who was credited for 14 tackles, including six solo tackles.

“I thought he played really and flowed to the ball extremely well to be able to help out on a bunch of plays,” Lane said. “I was very pleased with the defense. With the type of offense they ran, they only threw the ball two or three times, so our defensive linemen had to do a really good job and they did. Logan (Garmon), Luke (Roberts) and those were able to get some good penetration, and Jay (Fulford), playing safety, was able to come downhill and make some plays and had a touchdown-saving tackle.”

And Lane also didn’t neglect to mention special teams, where sophomore Brady Logan went 6-for-6 on extra-point attempts and freshman Johnny Dickinson had three tackles on kickoffs inside the Cavaliers’ 20-yard line to help BCA win the battle of field position.

“Brady has been very solid kicking and has been very consistent with his placement,” Lane said. “He’s doing a really good job with directional kicking, and that’s certainly a weapon to have that can help you in all phases of the game. Hopefully, he’ll start putting the kickoffs in the end zone pretty soon because the other team’s chances of scoring drop dramatically the further you can have them starting inside their own 30.

“This whole thing is a process and it takes little steps. I felt like we made good progress from week one to week two. We had a couple weeks to live with a disappointing loss at Towns County, but the kids had a great attitude the two weeks at practice and just focused on doing things really well. We feel like if we can take good care of us, we’ve got a chance to win.”

The Knights will be tested Friday when they host Southwest Georgia, a traditionally solid GISA Class AA program that has gone on several deep playoff runs over the last couple of decades. The Warriors enter Friday’s game at 2-1 after back-to-back wins against Calvary Christian (45-24) and Lafayette Christian (41-7) and are averaging more than 41 points a game. Their run-heavy offense is led by a quartet of backs with seniors Stohne Cobb (26 carries, 356 yards, five touchdowns) and Ke’voisier Stephens (26 carries, 255 yards, four touchdowns) getting the bulk of the touches. Senior Tylek Marshall has rushed for six touchdowns and has 173 yards on 15 carries.

“They’re a very athletic team with a good combination of size and speed, and those couple of 200-pound backs are quite a load,” Lane said. “They’re going to be very aggressive on defense with even- and odd-man fronts, and the linebackers are pretty active and very physical. We know we have to eliminate mistakes, maintain gap integrity on defense and keep them out of our secondary. You don’t want your defensive backs having to make a lot of tackles because that’s usually a sign they’re having success breaking through the first and second levels.

“Fundamentally we’ve come a long way in the past three weeks, and we’ve just got to build on our successes and improvement that we’ve had. …Not that we don’t focus on the opponent. We’re going to work to be prepared for the things we’ve shown, but we don’t want Bethlehem Christian to beat Bethlehem Christian on Friday night.”

Kickoff on Friday is set for 7:30 p.m.

WILDCATS OPEN REGION PLAY

After a much-needed bye week, Apalachee will be trying to snap an 0-3 skid to start the year when it hosts Clarke Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday in both teams’ GHSA Region 8-AAAAA opener.

The Gladiators enter the matchup at 1-2 and are coming off back-to-back losses, including a 47-0 thrashing last week at the hands of Buford, last year’s Class 5A champ and the No. 2-ranked team in 6A this season.

Apalachee coach Tony Lotti is expecting to see a Clarke Central team looking to take out its frustrations after the loss against Buford and a 24-7 setback against Oconee County the previous week. The Wildcats, meanwhile, will be aiming to bounce back after they gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 21-10 loss at Madison County on Sept. 18.

“I think, like us, they’ll be trying to turn the page,” Lotti said of the Gladiators. “They had a tough time last week against a very, very strong Buford team but they’re still a very talented football team with a lot of weapons. This is going to be a very important game for us. We had a good week last week focusing on the fundamentals. We’ve got to make sure we’ve been able to clean up the mistakes we’ve been making if we’re going to have a chance to beat them.”

After allowing 90 points over their first two outings, the Wildcats played with marked improvement on defense against Madison County in Danielsville and held a 7-6 lead entering the fourth quarter against the Red Raiders. But the fourth quarter proved to be a rough one as a false-start penalty took away a touchdown opportunity on fourth-and-goal at the Madison County 1-yard line and forced the Wildcats to settle for a field goal. The Red Raiders grabbed the lead on the next possession and then added an insurance score late to claim the victory. On top of that, Apalachee was already hurting from the loss of senior running back Tauheed Ferguson to a hip injury that will cost him the rest of his season — a heartbreaking turn of events for a team that had watched Ferguson work his way back from a season-ending knee injury in the 2019 opener.

In Ferguson’s absence, the Wildcats will continue looking to a stable of backs to try to fill the production gap, including junior Channin Daniels who had a third-quarter touchdown against Madison County. And they’ll also look to a core of seniors and other experienced players like junior running back/receiver/defensive back Colby Sikes to fill provide steady leadership.

Clarke Central, meanwhile, enters Friday’s game still a work in progress on the offensive side of the ball following the graduation of several key seniors, including strong-armed quarterback Isaac Ward. Senior William Robinson and sophomore Lucian Anderson III have been splitting the snaps thus far, while the team has relied heavily on 5-foot-10, 210-pound, junior running back William Richardson in the early going. Senior Jairus Mack, a three-star Charlotte commit, is the Gladiators’ top threat at receiver.

“He’s really good. He can go get it and make things happen,” Lotti said of Mack, “but they have other people they can go to. The two quarterbacks each bring something different to the table, but they’re both really good at distributing the ball. And the running back is big and fast and gets running downhill quickly. Defensively, they’re big up front. They have a very strong linebacker corps and will rotate a lot of fresh guys in and throw multiple different coverages at you.

“So, it’s going to be real challenge. It’s going to be important for us to get off on good, solid footing and not help them out in any way.”

WINDER-BARROW MAKES TRIP TO ATHENS

Winder-Barrow will also be coming off its first of two bye weeks Friday and will look to get back on track when it travels to Athens to take on Cedar Shoals for the final non-region tune-up before the Bulldoggs open Region 8-AAAAAA play Oct. 9 against Habersham Central.

After a season-opening 34-27 win at Apalachee, the Bulldoggs dropped their last two games at home against Eastside (27-14) and Glynn Academy (21-14).

In addition to using the week off to get some players health like two-way starter Sam Herr (OL/DL), the Bulldoggs put an emphasis on addressing miscues and slow starts that factored heavily into their last two defeats.

“We haven’t started out well, and I’m not sure how we fix that but we can’t keep doing it,” Winder-Barrow coach Ed Dudley said. “We can’t lie around and wait until the second half to make a comeback. We’ve got to be ready to go. We utilized the bye week as best we could. We worked on some stuff offensively, and we’ve done a lot of work on the punt team. We’ve given up a couple of costly blocks, and that’s not like us. So hopefully that’s going to look better Friday night.”

The Bulldoggs will face a Cedar Shoals team that is off to a slow 0-3 start and has scored just 6 points over its first three outings and is still looking for its first touchdown.

The run-heavy Jaguars are led by junior running backs Jerdavian Colbert and Caleb Allen.

“It’s a dangerous team and program,” Dudley said of Cedar Shoals. “We’re not at a stage where we can take anyone for granted right now. We’ve got to be aware of and be able to limit their running attack and force them into some long down and distance situations. And then we’ve got to be able to move the ball offensively ourselves.”

The Bulldoggs have had some solid success running the ball — with senior running back J.C. Green rushing for 348 yards on 59 carries and five touchdowns through the first three games — and they’re searching for more consistency in the passing game as first-year starting quarterback junior Trevor Summerfield continues to grow into the job.

The passing game “was a big focal point for us in the open week,” Dudley said. “We’ve run the ball fairly well, which is what we expected, but the execution in the passing game has been lacking. And it’s come in all areas — protection, throwing and catching — but I feel like it’s getting better, though.”

A win for the Bulldoggs on Friday would give Dudley the 200th of his head coaching career. That would make him only the 61st head coach in Georgia high school football history to reach that milestone. Stratford Academy’s Mark Farriba is also currently sitting at 199 victories.

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