By Chris Goltermann
Special to the Daily
Some habits are hard to break. And East Coweta continued to have its own -- both good and bad -- even on the most festive of Homecoming nights Friday at Garland Shoemake Stadium.
But at the top of the list so far, is winning football games. The Indians defense held Luella's veer attack scoreless and the team carried the momentum of 55-yard touchdown pass just before halftime to pull out a 21-6 victory, while improving to 4-0 in East Coweta's Region 2-AAAAA opener.
The Indians' bad habits, however, were much more stressful to overcome.
"We grew up a little bit," said East Coweta head coach Clint Wade. "That's the type of game I was worried about, cause if we struggle on offense, it's going to be a fight. But I'm proud of the kids and the way we battled through it."
Like its previous three games, East Coweta was forced to play from behind on Luella senior linebacker Oliver Davis' 7-yard fumble return that gave Luella a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter while backed up in its own end.
For the second consecutive week, a different quarterback was called on behind center, this time calling on Hutcheson when starter Garrett Schrepfor and the running game netted only 11 first-half yards. Last Saturday, it was Schrepfor who was the hero while leading a 30-plus point effort over Troup.
On Friday against Luella (2-3, 0-1), however, it took Hutcheson's rocket arm to spread things out. Entering early in the second quarter, the senior hit 5 of 7 attempts in the first half, the last of which turning out to be his biggest play of the night. He finished a solid 9-for-13 for 120 of East Coweta's 128 passing yards.
Facing second-and-10 from their own 45 with 5.5 seconds to play, Hutcheson found receiver Jarin Fowler striding in the middle of the field on a post pattern and the senior kept his balance long enough to outrun the Lion secondary to the end zone for a 7-6 halftime lead.
"It gave us a little bit of confidence. Sometimes that's all you need, just a spark" said Wade. "We called on Zack and he made some throws. Both of those (quarterbacks) are going to have to rely on each other."
East Coweta, meanwhile, continue to rely on the strength of its defense to win ball games. The Indians completely shut out Luella's split-veer, holding the Lions to 72 yards rushing. A key stop inside Luella's only drive inside the East Coweta 20 midway through the second quarter forced the Lions to try a 37 yard field goal that was pushed to the right.
They didn't get any closer the rest of the way. Likewise, East Coweta put together an 8-play drive on its first possession of the third quarter that ended when short-yardage back Angel Santiago, the team's starting middle linebacker, followed a block from teammate Willie Holloway up the middle for a 28-yard score on his first carry while facing second-and-2 with 7:07 remaining.
"Coach keeps telling us we've got to finish and if we do, hard work pays off," said Santiago, who added of the touchdown run, "I just let Holloway, the big man, lead the way."
East Coweta used that momentum to finally open running lanes, with sophomore tailback Demarcus Godfrey able to fight back for 99 yards on 12 carries, all but six of the yards coming in the second half.
After allowing Luella to score off his fumble in the first quarter, Godfrey made good to cap off a five-play drive early in the fourth, racing off left end from 15 yards to put the game out of reach after Spencer Smith's final point-after kick.
The drive stayed alive thanks to Santiago's nine-yard run on third down while able to recapture his own fumble to set up Godfrey's score on the ensuing snap.
"We're still going to have to establish our running game against some of these better teams in this region," said Wade. "We can't be pass first, run second, like we were (Friday)."
By the time Luella got to its passing game by switching quarterbacks, it was too late. Junior starter Jake Bartrum found himself bottled up all night long, fumbling at least four times, including one that went for Luella's longest play of the first half.
Up front, Holloway, Carlton Martin and Houston Mills took turns as the Lion finished with just four yards on a team-high 11 carries. Senior Jarrell Hudson led Luella with 35 yards on five carries.
East Coweta receivers Eddie Morris (29 yards) and Jamarcus Young (22 yards), along with fullback Carl Dann (22 yards) each had three catches in the victory.