Augusta’s football team proved there can be flash in the unflashy things.
In Friday night’s season opener against Winfield at home, the Orioles dominated the Vikings’ much smaller defensive front at the line of scrimmage to the tune of 256 rushing yards and a 31:38-16:22 advantage in time of possession. Five different Orioles scored touchdowns as Augusta rolled to a 39-13 victory.
Chance Whitehead shredded Winfield all night. He finished with 111 rushing yards and a score on just 12 carries and completed 10 of 13 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns. But he wasn’t the only one with success on the ground. Roman Swartz busted through the line with several good rips and finished with 63 yards on 11 carries. Colton Barnett carried the ball seven times for 41 yards. Grady Tole had four carries for 24 yards. Ceetyn Anderson added 19 yards, as well.
“We spread out the love with the different backs, rotating them in,” head coach Jason Filbeck said. “Not just one guy carrying you all the time. Chance did some things with his feet. But that line is going to be the difference. We have more size and more players up front this year than we’ve had before. Bringing Kendall and Ryan over and making them play some offense just gives us more push, and we move bodies out of the way better now.”
Barnett also finished with three catches for 37 yards and two scores. Anderson caught five passes for 83 yards and showed grit over the middle and the ability to make plays and break tackles.
The Vikings went three and out on both of their first two drives to start the game, and the Orioles took advantage with good field position both time. Anderson, ripped a couple long runs on the drive. Whitehead later connected with Barnett on a 12-yard touchdown pass to take an early 6-0 lead.
Two possessions later, Augusta started at its 45 and drove 55 yards on eight plays. Whitehead capped the drive with a four-yard scamper up the middle. Winfield had a critical roughing-the-passer penalty to aid the Orioles.
Augusta recovered a loose ball on the ensuing kickoff and looked to be running away with the game early, but Winfield’s defense came up with a big play. Landon Davis picked off a pass by Whitehead to give the Vikings the ball.
Fortunately, they couldn’t do much with it. They had to punt, and Augusta started at Winfield’s 46 yard line. Augusta’s Roman Swartz carried the bulk of the load on the drive as the Orioles pounded the ball on the ground eight straight plays before Swartz eventually scored from two yards out late in the second quarter.
Winfield eventually broke up the shutout in the third quarter on a nice 28-yard pass play. Like Augusta most of the night, Winfield struggled on the PAT, and the score was cut down to just 18-6. The Orioles missed three extra-point kicks and went 1-for-2 on 2-point conversions.
In addition to the missed PATs, the Orioles finished with 118 yards on 14 penalties, most of which were procedural things that can be expected from Week 1 games.
“There are a lot of kinks in the system right now. A lot of little things, not to mention extra points,” Filbeck said. “We’ve got a lot to fix, but I feel like Winfield played us hard and they didn’t give us anything for free in the first half.”
The Orioles made some subtle adjustments throughout the course of the game to break it open as Winfield played tough early on.
“Week 1 is tough because you’re not always sure what the other team could do,” Filbeck said. “Winfield played a defense we were not predicting, so it took us a little while to get some stuff figured out.”
Other than the one fourth-down TD pass in the third and a late score with the bench cleared, Augusta’s defense played tough all night. Dominik Ketchum picked off a pass to slow down any momentum Winfield might’ve gotten after its first score.
“Pretty stingy most of the night, and that’s how we want to be,” Filbeck said of the defense.
The Orioles, now 1-0, will play on the road against Clearwater next week.