With disruptive stops in the backfield and scoring drives of the grind-it-out and big-play variety, Putnam County High’s football War Eagles held their own on a hot Thursday night in Watkinsville. Taking on real game action (with a few special teams modifications) after a summer of early morning workouts and 7-on-7s, Putnam County showed off a balanced attack on offense with a stout frontline defense against an Oconee County High Warrior team coming off consecutive runner-up seasons in Class AAAA.
The War Eagles were without head coach Shaun Pope, who stayed home due to an illness. Scores for the scrimmage were not kept on the board, and there were no kickoff or punt returns or rushing the punter.
For Oconee County’s first offensive series, it was a string of frustration experienced by the Putnam defense. Tackles for a loss by senior Keontay Card and big senior tackle Michael Crumbley two times forced the home Warriors to execute for a first down. But a penalty on 4 th -and-inches moved the chains, and next on a play-action pass, Oconee was 1 st and 10 on the War Eagle 11-yard-line.
It was on 3 rd -and-8 that another senior, Zac Mitchell, broke up Oconee’s pass in the end zone. The scrimmage rules also prohibited attempts to block field goal tries, and the host Warriors connected on a 26-yarder.
For the first two series on offense, Putnam County made just one first down on a 20-yard keeper from senior quarterback Gerald Kilgore. The defense remained stiff, stopping 3 rd -and-2 for 4 th -and-1 with action still in the first quarter.
During the third series, the War Eagles picked up some rhythm and Kilgore’s first pass connected with senior Malik Thornton. This made first down on their own 43. More running lanes opened up with senior Zemarion Little and junior Tamarion Peters getting the football across midfield and first down on the Oconee County 43.
Moving into the second period, Putnam picked up a first down on the 34, and on 3 rd -and-8, Kilgore hit brother Jalon Kilgore on a slant up to the 23. The War Eagles needed 12 yards in two plays to keep the offense on the field, and between Thornton’s catch and the plowing run of senior Cedrion Brundage – the fourth running back to see action – the visitors were still in operation on the 12.
It wasn’t 1 st -and-goal, but it was when Peters reached the 2 on third down. On a fade pass from one Kilgore to another, Putnam had a touchdown at 7:16 until halftime. Brundage carried across a two-point conversion.
Back on the defensive side, the War Eagles kept making the Warriors work for first downs. DJ Bland’s and Rashod Daniel’s efforts stood out only to be nullified by pass interference on third and long. Oconee maintained possession and earned four more first downs to the Putnam 12. Though Thornton – in the secondary – stopped a pass receiver short of the stick for fourth down, Oconee broke the plane of the goal line at the 38-second mark.
So the Warriors were “leading” at halftime 10-8 and had the football first for the second half. Tra Smith immediately got into the backfield forcing 3 rd -and-12 and a punt.
Oconee’s second series, however, resulted in a huge break as Daniel was getting to the quarterback. Despite the pressure and Bland’s coverage, the home team excited its fans with a 68-yard scoring play.
Brundage put responsibility on his shoulders with two strong cuts around right end for runs of 15 and 17 yards. The War Eagles were spotted on the OC 30, and Little powered his way into the end zone from 28 out at 5:36. He also scored on the 2-point run.
As Putnam showcased its running game depth, Kilgore dropped off a pass to Jaxon Parks, who scampered untouched for six from 58 yards away.
And continuing the trend of tackles for loss, senior Jamarcus Evans ended the third quarter stopping Oconee in the backfield.
Putnam County goes back on Hwy. 441 for the regular season opener. That game is against Morgan County High in Madison Aug. 27.