ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The goal for Alpharetta Friday night against Johns Creek was simple enough — compile 250 yards rushing. Though a straightforward goal, it’s not one easily accomplished no matter the personnel on the offensive line, the backs taking handoffs or the defense faced.
But on homecoming night, Alpharetta exceeded its goal by rushing for 275 yards, powering the Raiders to their sixth straight win to remain atop the Region 7-AAAAAA standings.
In his third game back from an injury that kept in sidelined for most of the first half of the season, Nolan Edmonds rushed for 193 yards on 14 carries with three touchdowns. Kevin Watkins added 60 yards and two scores.
“That’s about as effective as we have run the ball all year,” Alpharetta head coach Jacob Nichols said. “At the half, we said we wanted to establish the run and we were able to do that. I think that took pressure of our guys knowing the mindset that we wanted.”
Leading the charge for Edmonds and Watkins was the Raiders’ offensive line, which Nichols said controlled the line of scrimmage for the second straight week. Alpharetta’s 275 yards rushing was just 15 short of a program record in a single game.
Quarterback Matthew Downing also had an impressive performance. Downing was 10-14 passing for 116 yards.
But your offense will take a team only so far, and the Raiders’ defense was up to the task of facing a Gladiators squad with plenty of firepower.
After giving up a touchdown early in the game for the second straight week, Alpharetta’s defense bounced back to hold Johns Creek to just 167 yards of total offense.
“Sometimes when you need to make amends, you play harder,” Nichols said.
“Our D-line suffocated the quarterback with pressure and our secondary fulfilled their assignments well and made necessary adjustments,” he said.
The Raiders’ pressure forced seven sacks with Nick Markus and Jack Stanton accounting for three each. Meanwhile the Gladiators had just 13 yards rushing in the game and we held to 2-13 on third down conversions.
With the win, Alpharetta (6-1, 5-0) continued its outright lead in the region standings with three games remaining.
With his team in a solid position to capture a region title, the Raiders goal from the outset of the season, Nichols said its vital his team maintain its focus.
“We just need to make sure we don’t look ahead and prepare for the opponent at hand,” he said. “We have done a good job so far at doing that and I feel confident if we continue we will be where we want to be.”
The Raiders will take on Cambridge on the road this week. The Bears have put together a three-game win streak and are suddenly in contention for a playoff spot after starting the season 0-5. The Raiders will then face Dunwoody and a Chattahoochee team fighting for its first playoff spot since 2012.
“We need to make sure we don’t take anyone lightly,” Nichols said.
Johns Creek (2-6, 2-4) will certainly need wins in their final two games of the season to have a chance at securing a playoff berth in head coach Matt Helmerich’s debut season. Their two remaining opponents, North Atlanta and Dunwoody, have a combined region record of 5-9.