Lumpkin County High School holds on to bragging rights for the second straight year in the Battle of Blood Mountain rivalry as it toppled Union County High School in a 44-27 contest at the Burial Grounds in Dahlonega Friday night.
The Indians (1-0) leaned heavily on the ground game with senior running back Mason Sullens and junior quarterback Cal Faulkner leading the charge.
Sullens finished the game with 32 carries, 254 yards and four touchdowns.
“Good gosh! I did not realize that,” Lumpkin County Head Coach Heath Webb said of his running back’s performance. “Very good football player, obviously.”
Sullens said all the praise should go to the offensive line for their performance, which allowed him to be so explosive on the night.
“I really couldn’t have done it without the O-line,” the senior said. “They deserve the respect and hype.”
The home team compiled 369 yards on the ground, which played directly into the game plan for the Indians.
Webb said he expected his team to have to run it a good bit to run time off the clock and limit possessions for Union County (1-1).
Still, knowing the game plan was to run the ball early meant his squad would need to push the Panthers around up front.
“Five (offensive) line starters back, first-team all-region running back back, we felt like we were capable of those things,” Webb said. “We talked about the keys to victory – win the line of scrimmage.
“You rush for 300-plus, you won the line of scrimmage,” he continued.
Faulkner contributed 95 yards to the ground game on 13 carries.
Junior running back Gerald Walker Jr. took advantage of his only carry of the game, getting to the endzone untouched on a 7-yard scamper for the first score of the contest. Walker’s touchdown capped a two-play drive, the first of which was a 38-yard dash from the Panthers 45-yard line down to the 7.
The game was Faulkner’s first that mattered as a signal caller. The wide receiver prospect moved over to the position this season to run the offense for Webb’s spread attack.
In his first action, the junior was 8-for-13 in passing attempts, covering 132 yards and one score.
“I thought he played well,” Webb said of his quarterback. “I feel like he maybe missed a read or two here or there. Considering that’s his first real, full football game as a quarterback, I thought he did really well.”
With Faulkner’s successful night through the air and on the ground, it’s clear he’s going to be a big part of what the Indians will be able to do on offense as the season continues.
“He’s going to make us go,” Webb said. “We got to moments there where (Union County) felt like they obviously needed to load the box to stop (Sullens) and Cal did a nice job of making some really great throws in timely situations. When we needed him to bail us out of some third and fourth – there was a 4th-and-7 in there – situations where we needed a play in the passing game, Cal came through.”
Just before half, Union County scored on a 3-yard run from senior quarterback Caiden Tanner with 1:22 left on the clock. The Indians jumped into their two-minute, no-huddle offense to drive down the field and add a field goal before the horn blew.
With 55 yards needed for a touchdown, the quarterback connected on 4-of-7 attempts for 50 yards. A holding penalty backed the Indians up before they put a field goal through the uprights as time expired.
For a lot of quarterbacks, the two-minute offense can be daunting, but Faulkner handled it well, according to his coach.
“Very pleased with the 2-minute offense,” Webb said. “It’s something that’s hard to simulate in practice. Of course we do, but it’s hard. But all the things we talk about in the two-minute drill, he did all those things. Really proud of him.”
The receiver to bring down the only touchdown through the air was senior Luke Evans, who had four receptions on five targets for 65 yards.
After Union County put up almost 500 yards (326 rushing, 167 passing) and 50 points themselves in Week 1 against Fannin County, the Indian defense showed up big.
The Panthers were held to 79 yards on the ground with senior running back Braylen Rader picking up 39 on 11 carries and scoring once. Tanner added 26 yards and one touchdown in the ground game.
Tanner carried the load of the offense, throwing for 277 yards and two scores while connecting on 15 of his 35 attempts. Rader (4 rec, 4 targets, 66 yds) and senior receiver Ethan McBride (1 rec, 3 targets, 50 yd) each brought in a score through the air.
Senior receiver Jensen Goble was Tanner’s top target as the two looked for a connection on 14 attempts with Goble securing eight of them for 145 yards. The bulk of his receiving yards came on a 77-yard catch and run on the third drive of the game, setting up the first points for Union County – a 1-yard run for Rader.
“They’re going to win a bunch of ball games. Heck, they may not lose again in the regular season,” Webb said of Union County. “Getting that win shows that we’re here. We’ve arrived and we’re just going to keep getting better.”
Lumpkin County now turns its focus to Franklin County. The Indians travel to Carnesville next week to face the Lions on the road.