Relying on a running game that coach Jacob Nichols said was as effective as it’s been all year and a defense that piled up eight sacks and allowed only 5 rushing yards, Alpharetta cruised to a 36-7 win over visiting Johns Creek on Friday night.
The win was the Raiders’ (6-1, 4-0) sixth in a row after a season-opening loss to Milton and maintained their unbeaten record in Region 7-AAAAAA.
“These guys just stayed patient, trusted the process,” Nichols said after the game. “We ran the ball as well as I can remember this year. We just tried to keep it simple and move the ball down the field.”
And they did. With ease.
After a somewhat inauspicious start that saw Johns Creek (2-6, 2-4) take a 7-0 lead on its first possession and then force a punt on Alpharetta’s turn with the ball, the Raiders responded in force. Their second drive lasted just three plays, with running back Nolan Edmonds taking a handoff at their own 45-yard line on third down and running up the gut untouched for a 55-yard score.
Hardly more than three minutes later, backup running back Kevin Watkins took a handoff himself for an 18-yard score to give Alpharetta its first lead of the game early in the second quarter.
After rushing for 83 yards in the first half, Edmonds was even more effective after the break. He carried seven times in the second half for 114 yards and two more touchdowns, a 17-yarder that made the score 22-7 and a 27-yarder that made it 36-7. In total, the Minnesota commit had 197 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries in the game. Watkins added 59 yards and two touchdowns.
Edmonds credited the line for his big performance.
“They did an incredible job,” he said. “They came out strong, they’re all healthy. We studied and schemed all week, and we just came out with a balanced effort. … (Watkins and I) compete with each other and push each other to get better.”
The offense was helped out by the stingy and, at times, downright suffocating Alpharetta defense, which allowed just 146 total yards in the game. Johns Creek managed only 11 yards in the second half, and much of the credit can go to the Raiders defensive line. The line totaled eight sacks in the game. Nick Markus and Jack Stanton each contributed to four.
“It’s great,” Nichols said of having that kind of a weapon in the pass rush. “It means they don’t have to take as many chances on defense. We’ve got several guys we can rotate, and they make the offense better, as well.”
The only hiccup for the defense was an opening-drive touchdown, a play that very nearly ended in another sack. Johns Creek quarterback Zach Gibson avoided three potential tacklers to buy time and loft a 24-yard touchdown pass to Ji Kim. The Gladiators never came closer than the 41-yard line the rest of the game.
Alpharetta now turns its attention to Cambridge, which they will face on the road next Friday. Johns Creek will host North Atlanta on Oct. 27.