By Jeffery Armstrong
Football teams in Region 5-AAAA better watch out the North Clayton Eagles are for real.
The Eagles played outstanding on both sides of the ball Friday night, crushing the Lovejoy Wildcats 47-0 in non-region action at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
It was the Eagles' first shutout since a 28-0 victory over the Henry County Warhawks in 2001.
North Clayton improves to 2-0 on the season, with both wins coming on talented teams in Class AAAAA. Led by sensational sophomore quarterback Morgan Burnett, the Eagles have scored 78 points in two games. But North Clayton coach Don Shockley is impressed with his defense more than anything.
"Our defense has been outstanding," Shockley said. "We've only committed one turnover and are on the plus side in takeaways. And the beauty of it is that we're converting those turnovers to points."
Lovejoy committed uncharacteristic turnovers in the game, leading to the positive takeaway totals for North Clayton. The Wildcats (0-2) fumbled the ball five times, losing four. Starting Lovejoy quarterback Darius Thomas lost three fumbles himself, two on consecutive possessions in the first quarter.
Thomas' first fumble was nearly taken the distance by lineman Jeremy Elder, who was tackled by Thomas at the Lovejoy two. Three plays later, Burnett ran the two yards for a touchdown and the 7-0 lead.
After North Clayton's Reginald Fountain recovered Thomas' second fumble, Burnett launched an 11-yard fade pass to wide receiver Dirk Engram for the Eagles' second TD. With 5:51 left in the first quarter, North Clayton had a quick 14-0 lead.
The second quarter was when North Clayton ran away with the game. Burnett (5-for-14, 128 yards, 2 TD passes, 3 rushing TDs) threw a 95-yard touchdown pass to Engram on a post pattern to start the quarter. The point-after was blocked and the Eagles led 20-0. The TD pass was the second longest in school history.
Burnett, who had six carries for 139 yards, showed how tough he is. After getting the wind knocked out of him by Lovejoy's Keith Fitzhugh, Burnett came back on the team's next possession and showed why he was so highly regarded by North Clayton coaches.
On a planned quarterback run, Burnett scampered around the right side, ran through a couple of tackles and was in the end zone 83 yards later for a 27-0 lead. And just for good measure, Burnett scored from 17-yards out (making a nice fake on linebacker Cornelius Early in the process) for a 34-0 halftime lead.
"I couldn't do it without the o-line. They help me do what I do," Burnett said. "They deserve all the credit. The conditioning and the weight room work helps me break tackles."
"One man isn't going to bring No. 9 [Burnett's number] down," laughed Engram. "He and the rest of us worked hard all week to get this win."
Schley Devereux and Derrick Matthews scored North Clayton's final two touchdowns.