A year ago, it took overtime for Greater Atlanta Christian to pull off a victory against Westminster in its second game of the season. This time around, the Spartans made sure things were never in doubt.
Behind a suffocating effort from its defense, Greater Atlanta Christian defeated Westminster 41-7 on Friday at home.
The Spartans (2-0) allowed just 218 total yards, held the Wildcats (0-2) scoreless until the 1:19 mark in the final quarter and intercepted two passes in a performance coach Tim Hardy termed "complete."
"That was just a complete game by our defense," Hardy said. "The defense is our story tonight. It was so consistent and controlled the game. It was 11 hats to the ball every time. The inside (linebackers), outside, in the backfield. It was just complete."
It was so complete that 80 of the 218 yards allowed came on Westminster's final drive of the game, on which the Wildcats took advantage of backups en route to its lone score of the game.
Even when the defense started in difficult positions, like when the Wildcats began a drive near midfield early in the second quarter, it came up with big plays. On that particular drive, which started at the Wildcats 47, defensive lineman Christopher Hinton prevented Westminster from gaining any ground on the first play when he stepped in front of a shovel pass for an interception.
"We just had a good game plan," linebacker Robby Fowler said. "We were physical up front. Chris, Ford (Roberts), those are experienced guys. We have a lot of confidence. I think we're the most physical defense in AAA right now."
The first two weeks have provided solid evidence for the Spartans, who have allowed just 14 total points.
Fowler, who also scored a touchdown on offense, was quick to credit the other side of the ball for the victory, as well.
Greater Atlanta Christian played ball-control offense, gaining fewer than 300 yards, but taking advantage when they came.
They got on the board for the first time fewer than four minutes into the game, capping a nine-play, 48-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Fowler with 8:02 left in the first quarter.
Senior kick returner Trey Morrison opened the game with a 38-yard kickoff return, giving Greater Atlanta Christian strong field position inside Wildcats territory. The Spartans gave Westminster a heavy dose of Kyler McMichael on the drive, handing off to the senior running back five times for 38 yards. His third carry of the day, a slow-to-develop run around left end on which he waited patiently for a hole to appear, went for 20 yards and set up the offense at the 7-yard line. Three plays later, Fowler reached the end zone on a 1-yard dive up the middle.
The Spartans added six points for a 13-0 halftime lead behind the strong leg of kicker Sean Henderson, who kicked a pair of 50-yard field goals, one with 4:13 left in the half and one with 1:00 left in the half.
"What a weapon," Hardy said. "He delivered with some big kicks through the uprights."
Greater Atlanta Christian added 28 points in the second half, scoring touchdowns on a 4-yard run by McMichael, an 11-yard run by Alex Boglin, a 37-yard touchdown pass by Jackson Hardy to Jonathan Moore, and an electrifying 60-yard interception return by Zach Dixon to make it 41-0.
McMichael finished with 12 carries for 78 yards to go with his touchdown.
For Westminster, it continued a slow start on the offensive side of the ball. It went nearly eight scoreless quarters before notching its first points of the season with 1:19 remaining in the game. Last season, it had a similarly slow start, scoring just 33 points in its first two games, before in 10 of its next 11 games.
Next Friday, the Wildcats play at Woodward Academy. The Spartans take a week off before hosting Valor Christian (Colo.) on Sept. 8.