JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — To say Johns Creek football had a long day Aug. 23 might be an understatement. The team loaded up in buses early in the morning for their trip journey to Winnsboro, South Carolina, and stopped in downtown Greenville for lunch and toured the Newberry College campus. After their time on the road, the team’s anticipation to begin its regular season against Fairfield Central hit a snag when weather delayed kickoff by nearly two hours.

As midnight approached, Johns Creek was still battling their opponent when another weather delay stalled the game, which was eventually called early in the fourth quarter. Then, it was time to load the buses again and make the journey back to North Fulton. It was 5 a.m. when head coach Matt Helmerich arrived home.

It was certainly a draining day, but it was well worth it. Helmerich said the trip to play Fairfield Central provided a great bonding experience for his players and will be a memory they will not soon forget.

Of course, it also helps when you earn a lopsided win, which the Gladiators accomplished by downing Fairfield 44-6 in a soggy contest.

“The kids handled it extremely well,” Helmerich said. “They have the uncanny ability to go from having the best time of their lives and goofing around to getting serious and playing hard. And our staff was able to corral those guys and keep them focused, which was a big plus.”

The Gladiators used all three phases of the game to power their victory. Touchdowns came on the ground and in the air, the defense held Fairfield to six points and forced two turnovers and the Gladiators scored a field goal and touchdown on special teams.

“It was good team win,” Helmerich said. “To go over there, have that long delay and play well in all phases was very encouraging.”

The offense split its attack with 215 passing yards and 183 rushing. Ben Whitlock threw two touchdowns in his Johns Creek debut, connecting with senior Garrett Gauthreaux on a 25-yard score early in the first quarter before hitting Dalton Pearson for a 22-yard score in the third quarter.

Will Watson had a rushing touchdown to put the Gladiators up 14-0 late in the first quarter and Tank Pritchett found the end zone twice with rushing scores of 4 and 17 yards.

Nicholas Willis made a significant impact on special teams and opened the third quarter by returning the kickoff for a touchdown to put the Gladiators up 28-6. That score was followed by a 37-yard field goal from Caleb Adegboyego.

Senior defensive back DeJuane McCoy and junior defensive back Jack Yensel each forced turnovers.

“For the most part I was pretty pleased with out performance,” Helmerich said. “I did not expect perfection after the long bus ride, but we executed pretty well. There are still a lot of things to clean up before we face an elite Jones (High School) team, but the kids a great time, and that’s always good to see.”

The Gladiators have another out-of-state opponent next on their slate of non-region games when they host Jones out of Orlando, Florida Aug. 30.

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