MARIETTA, Ga. — It didn’t look like the most promising start for Region 7-AAAAAA leaders Alpharetta. Facing Pope (2-4, 2-2) on the road, the Greyhounds needed just seven plays to find the end zone on the opening drive of the game.
Then on Alpharetta’s ensuing possession, the Raiders went three and out. Alpharetta’s offense then stalled on its second drive and the score remained 6-0 at the end of the first quarter.
“It seems like every time we play an away game we have an interesting start,” Alpharetta head coach Jacob Nichols said. “We knew they were going to come out and hit us in the mouth and they did.”
But then the Raiders got a spark, the first that led them to a 37-14 region win.
Alpharetta’s Dylan Schorr pinned Pope on their own 1-yard line with a punt. Three plays later Alpharetta forced a safety as Pope threw a pass into the flat in the end zone.
Alpharetta (5-1, 4-0) then put together a quick, five play drive capped off by a 28-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Downing to Spencer Gaddis.
Alpharetta’s defense then found its rhythm, disrupting Pope’s shift-heavy offense, setting up a punt and another touchdown pass from Downing to Gaddis to extend the Raiders’ lead to 16-6.
“Our defense responded and our offense got some big plays and it turned out in our favor,” Nichols said.
In the second half, Alpharetta’s stout defensive play continued while their offense racked up yards and points.
Nolan Edmonds, who missed multiple games earlier this season with an injury, opened the second half scoring with a 53-yard touchdown rush. Edmonds and Kevin Watkins shared carries throughout the night.
“It definitely makes us a little more potent having [Edmonds] back,” Nichols said.
Nichols said the duo of Watkins and Edmonds will make the Raiders’ a rushing threat.
“Kevin did a great job when Edmonds couldn’t go and definitely earned his right to be on the field,” he said. “Edmonds being a senior leader, he’s been earning it for a long time.”
In addition to rushing scores, Downing added his third touchdown pass of the game, this time to Luke Estes after a fumble recovery from the Raiders’ Dane Motley.
The Raiders opened a 30-6 lead before a roughing the kicker penalty kept a Pope drive alive in the fourth. The Greyhounds would eventually score and add a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 30-14.
Alpharetta then ate away nearly six minutes of clock in 12 plays, capped off by an Edmonds nine-yard touchdown.
A Jaycee Horn interception in the final two minutes iced the game.
With the win, the Raiders improved to 4-0 in region play and remained alone at the top of the standings.
The Raiders will host Johns Creek (2-5, 2-3) next Friday in a matchup that has resulted in two-straight years of heartbreaking losses for Alpharetta.
“It’s one that we want to win because they have gotten the best of us the last two years,” Nichols said. “We’ll work hard this week, it’ll be nice to be home, and hopefully we can take care of business.”