Chattahoochee 23, Johns Creek 7: Cougars bounce back to score region victory

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Chattahoochee rebounded from a disappointing loss the previous week in the Cougars’ Region 6-AAAAAA opener, scoring a 23-7 victory last Friday night, Sept. 27, at Johns Creek to remain in the thick of a wide open battle for playoff berths.

The Cougars (3-2 overall) are one of six teams in 6-AAAAAA with 1-1 records after two weeks of region play. They picked up their first region victory with a solid defensive effort after allowing Johns Creek to drive for a touchdown on their first series, while the Cougars’ offense and special teams produced a number of big plays.

The game appeared headed in the direction of another 6-AAAAAA shootout after the Cougars returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Gladiators (0-2, 0-5) responded with a 74-yard touchdown drive.

But the Chattahoochee defense did not allow another point, while the Cougars managed enough offense to pull away in the second half.

The Cougars’ Montel Austin raced 95 yards down the right sideline after fielding the opening kickoff, but the Gladiators responded with a 53-yard sprint by tailback Chase Solomon on their first play on offense. Solomon scored from the 1 yard line five plays later, but the Gladiators were limited to 200 yards and no points the rest of the way.

Chattahoochee took the lead for good early in the second quarter when standout receiver Collin Lisa caught a perfectly thrown long pass from Taz Wilson, creating some separation between himself and the defensive back to make the catch and complete a 68-yard scoring play.

The Cougars hit another big play minutes later, but Avery Ward was stripped of the ball inside the Johns Creek 10 after catching another over-the-top pass from Wilson that netted 52 yards before the fumble.

Wilson completed 12 of 20 passes for 295 yards, including another deep ball to Lisa, who made a spectacular catch while falling down to set up the Cougars’ last score. Lisa finished with four receptions for 133 yards, while Ward had five catches for 108 yards.

Running back Chase Nelson had the other three receptions for 54 yards for the Cougars, and added 84 yards rushing on 13 attempts. Nelson took a short pass 28 yards late in the third period to key a 91-yard drive that was capped by Nelson’s 5-yard scoring run.

Lisa’s 44-yard catch set up a 45-yard field goal by Adam Abdellaoui that wrapped up the scoring midway through the final period.

“We’ve got five guys in our offense who can play a little bit,” Chattahoochee coach Mike Owens said, referring to Wilson, Lisa, Ward, Nelson and tailback Kieron Ashley. The Gladiators took away Chattahoochee’s running game in the first half, but left themselves vulnerable to the deep ball and got burned a few times.

Solomon was John Creek’s lone effective offensive weapon, gaining 140 yards on 22 carries. The Gladiators completed just 11 of 29 passes for 84 yards against a Chattahoochee secondary that did not allow a completion of longer than 14 yards.

Johns Creek’s last hope was wiped out by a penalty early in the fourth quarter that nullified what would have been an 18-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Nalecz to Solomon.

The Chattahoochee defensive effort was led by Malik Stephens, who made a number of tackles for losses, along with linebacker Josh Weisberg.

“I was really pleased with our defense,” Owens said. “We had a chance to make six or seven interceptions.”