Roswell 35, Lowndes 8

August 21, 2015 - Roswell, Ga: Roswell running back Sheldon Evans (1) gets past Lowndes linebacker Mike Barrett (1, left) and linebacker Roderick Williams (49) for a 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of their game Friday at Roswell High School in Roswell, Ga., August 21, 2014. Tonight is the first game of the season for both Roswell and Lowndes. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Credit: David Purdum

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August 21, 2015 - Roswell, Ga: Roswell running back Sheldon Evans (1) gets past Lowndes linebacker Mike Barrett (1, left) and linebacker Roderick Williams (49) for a 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of their game Friday at Roswell High School in Roswell, Ga., August 21, 2014. Tonight is the first game of the season for both Roswell and Lowndes. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

Credit: David Purdum

Credit: David Purdum

For the first time in a long time, the Roswell Hornets enter the season with realistic championship aspirations. They took the first step Friday night, pulling away from longtime perennial South Georgia power Lowndes in a 35-8 victory at the Hornets’ field.

New quarterback Quintarius Neely and junior running back Sheldon Evans each scored two touchdowns, and the Hornets’ star-studded defense stymied Lowndes’ attack for much of the game.

Roswell senior linebacker Tre Lamar, a Clemson commit, was a menace, recording multiple sacks and convincingly ending several Lowndes’ offensive plays. Defensive back Xavier McKinney picked off Lowndes quarterback Austin Dixon twice, returning one 60 yards for a touchdown, and LeAnthony Williams recovered a fumble forced by Sam DiRoberto late in the fourth quarter that set up Neely's clinching 6-yard touchdown run.

"This team's great," Lamar said. "I feel like this season's going to be great for us."

Third-year coach John Ford, who has quickly turned around the Roswell program, downplayed the opening win, saying it was back to work for the fifth-ranked Hornets. Roswell went 3-17 the two seasons prior to Ford's arrival.

"We're going to watch film, learn from mistakes and get better on Monday," Ford said. "We got a little messy in the second and third quarters. We made some mistakes, and they took advantage of them."

Neely started the past two seasons at Lovejoy, before transferring to Roswell this season. He opened the scoring with a 55-yard keeper midway through the first quarter. Evans, who looks like a potential breakout star, extended the lead to 14-0 with a 37-yard burst off right tackle that made it 14-0 at the half.

Evans finished with 145 yards rushing with one touchdown both rushing and receiving.

Neely completed 13 of 23 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.

"He did everything I knew he'd do," Ford said of his senior signal-caller. "He was comfortable and confident."

Lowndes got on the board midway through the third quarter on Tayvonn Kyle’s 38-yard touchdown run on a reverse. But Roswell answered with another big play from Evans.

With nine minutes to play, Evans took a swing pass from Neely, slithered through multiple Lowndes defenders for a 31-yard touchdown, giving the Hornets some cushion, leading 21-8.

Neely overthrew some open receivers on deep balls, but played well overall in his first start for the Hornets. He cramped late in the first half and missed the last drive of the first half and the first of the second half, before returning to close out an impressive opening win for the Hornets.

Lowndes won three state championships in a four-year span from 2004 to 2007. Sandwiched in between those Vikings’ titles was Roswell’s 2006 co-championship it earned after tying Peachtree Ridge in the state championship game. Nine years later, the Hornets once again have championship aspirations.

Lowndes   0  0   8   0 – 8

Roswell   7    7    0  21 – 35

R -– Quintarius Neely 55 run (Turner Barckhoff kick)

2nd

R -– Sheldon Evans 37 run (Barckhoff kick)

3rd

L – Dezmon Coleman 38 run (Michael Barrett run)

4th

R – Neely 31 pass to Williams (Barckhoff kick)

R – Neely 6 run (Jake Pigot kick)

R – Xavier McKinney 60 interception return (Pigot kick)