Gladiators rally past Cougars

Defense keys second-half surge against crosstown rivals



JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The Johns Creek Gladiators collected their fourth straight victory against a North Fulton rival, rallying for a 30-16 victory last Friday night over Chattahoochee on the Cougars’ field.

The Gladiators trailed 16-9 midway through the third quarter, but scored three touchdowns in the next seven-and-a-half minutes thanks to an outstanding second-half showing on both offense and defense.

The Johns Creek defense, which played superbly in an earlier win against Milton, kept the Cougars in check despite several mistakes by the Gladiators’ special teams. Early in the third quarter, the Cougars gained possession at Johns Creek’s 32- and 4-yard line on consecutive possessions, but managed just a pair of field goals.

The Gladiators, who also stopped the Cougars inside the 5 in the first half, followed with an 80-yard touchdown drive to tie the game, then forced a pair of turnovers to ignite a 21-0 burst.

“The kids played hard the whole game, but we didn’t play that well in the first half,” Johns Creek coach Mike Cloy said. “This was a big win for the kids, the school and the community. In the second half, the defense was phenomenal.”

Trailing 10-9 at the half, the Gladiators gave the ball to the Cougars at the Johns Creek 32 after a muffed punt, but held at the 15.

A high punt snap on the next Johns Creek series resulted in Chattahoochee starting from the Gladiators’ 4, and the Johns Creek defense pushed the Cougars back to the 9, forcing another Adam Abdellaoui field goal.

The Gladiators, who managed just one drive in the first half, then swept 80 yards in 11 plays. Skye Overton hit three straight passes for 42 yards and covered the last 6 yards himself to tie the game with 24 seconds to play in the third quarter.

An interception by Will Sommers got the ball back for the Gladiators at the Cougars’ 31, but a pair of penalties pushed them back to the 48. Overton hit Solomon for 25 tough yards on the next play, and on fourth-and-2, Solomon broke through the line for 23 yards and the go-ahead touchdown.

Cloy said offensive coordinator Arthur Letchas had told him he had a play he felt strongly would get the first down. Cloy elected to go for it, and his decision paid immediate dividends.

The Cougars responded with a fake punt on fourth-and-5 from their 45 that gained 11 yards, but Chattahoochee fumbled two plays later. Sam Arrington’s hit forced the fumble with Michael Salomon recovering the ball.

The Gladiators covered 51 yards in four plays for the clinching score. Overton hit Braden Fortin for 27 yards and the touchdown.

Overton completed 10 of 17 passes for 190 yards, with the Cougars holding Johns Creek to 110 yards rushing. Solomon accounted for almost half his team’s yards with 75 yards rushing and 68 receiving.

The Gladiators limited Chattahoochee to 227 yards, just 78 in the second half. Johns Creek allowed the Cougars to complete just two of 10 passes in the final two periods after Chattahoochee quarterback Travis Marshall was 6-of-6 in the first half.

The Cougars took an early 3-0 lead on their first series, settling for a field goal after a bad snap from center on third down from the 4. Another high center snap resulted in Marshall being tackled for a 24-yard loss at the 1, and the Gladiators tackled him in the end zone on the next play for a safety.

Marshall’s 2-yard run capped a 70-yard drive to put the Cougars ahead 10-2 with 4:16 to play in the half. But Overton rallied the Gladiators with three completions for 74 yards, including a 19-yarder to Andrew Szambelan for the touchdown.

Johns Creek is 2-0 in Region 6-AAAAAA and 5-0 overall, with Chattahoochee 1-1 and 3-2. Both teams are off this week.

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