Class 3A Blog: Noland on Oconee’s strong start: ‘We’re a work in progress, for sure’

Is Oconee County the best program in Class 3A?

Maybe, maybe not.

Only the playoffs will tell. But after Friday night, that argument has a bit more credence.

The Warriors were ranked No. 3 entering Week 6 and defeated Class 5A No. 5 Veterans, a program averaging 26.5 points per game, 14-6.

“We are fortunate that our defense played great and only gave him two field goals,” said head coach Travis Noland. “We just found out that we can fight and face adversity and overcome it and find a way to win a close game at home.”

The Warriors took a 7-0 lead with a first-quarter touchdown pass from Jacob Wright to Jake Johnson, and Wright added another touchdown pass to Darius Johnson.

But Noland said the Warriors have things to work on as they head into region play.

“We turned the ball over three times against Veterans and gave them a short field,” Noland expressed.  “That’s uncharacteristic of us. But we have a good nucleus of guys who returned from last year’s team, where you expected to be a solid team. We are still not there yet. We’re a work in progress, for sure.”

Oconee County (5-0), which was tested in pre-region play, enters region competition next week against East Jackson.

The 4A runner-up in 2019 has played four ranked opponents in its first five games and three from upper classes. It began with a 27-7 victory against Class 4A No. 10 North Oconee at home. In Week 2, Oconee beat unranked Cedar Shoals 35-0 and then Class 5A No. 9 Clarke Central 24-7 in Week 3. Last week, Oconee traveled to Class 2A No. 5 Thomasville and won 44-14 before beating Class 5A No. 5 Veterans on Friday.

So what’s making the Warriors tick?

Senior leadership driving the smothering defense.

“West Weeks, Justin Coleman and several of those guys who played last year on the defense have done a really good job of getting us in the right places at the right times,” Noland said.

Both Weeks and Coleman have 14 tackles and one interception each.

It might be worth noting – but also worth ignoring -- that Oconee beat Veterans 14-6. Veterans beat Northside-Warner Robins 17-7. Northside-Warner Robins beat No. 4 Peach County 14-7 in Peach’s season-opener.

Just to throw it out there ... in case far-too-early transitive comparisons of a team’s wins, losses and common opponents is your thing.

In other games:

- In the one matchup between ranked 3A programs, No. 5 Greater Atlanta Christian defeated No. 8 Westminster 28-6 in a 5-3A contest. Deymon Fleming passed for three touchdowns to move GAC to 4-0 and 1-0 in the region. Westminster led 6-0 early before GAC took control, scoring the final 28 points.

- No. 6 Pierce County (4-1) and No. 7 White County (4-1) lost. Pierce fell to Class 2A No. 2 Fitzgerald 27-17. White County’s 42-35 loss to unranked Dawson County (2-3) opening region 7-3A play might prove more costly.

- Top-ranked Cedar Grove performed as it should and defeated Carver-Atlanta 35-12 to move to 2-0. Rashod Dubinion had 23 yards rushing yards with one touchdown and four receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Austin Smith was 9-of-18 passing for 150 yards and a touchdown with 55 rushing yards and a touchdown.

- No. 2 Crisp County moved to 4-0 with 32-0 victory against Upson-Lee on the road. No. 4 Peach County (3-1) had no trouble in its 53-3 victory against Americus-Sumter. Peach is 2-0 in 2-3A play. No. 10 Sandy Creek moved to 2-2 after a 12-2 victory against Douglas to open region 5-3A play.

- The remaining unbeatens (8) in thru Week 6: Appling County (4-0), Crisp County (4-0), GAC (4-0), Cedar Grove (2-0), Redan (2-0), Cherokee Bluff (5-0), Franklin County (5-0), Oconee County (5-0).

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