Putnam County’s football season got off to a rough start two weeks ago in the season opener. Week two was a completely different story.
The War Eagles rebounded from their grueling 58-21 loss to North Oconee in the season opener to defeat the Temple High School Tigers, 28-7, in a game that was a complete turnaround from their loss the week before. The Tigers came to Al Reaves Field and gave Putnam a fight, but the Eagles had an answer for them every step of the way.
“These kids are amazing,” Putnam head coach Shaun Pope said after the win. “We challenged them this week. Last week was my fault – I didn’t have them ready – but these kids are awesome. We have 71 in our program and all 71 of them showed back up to practice on Monday. That’s just a testament to those guys and the work they put in.”
The Putnam defense had a huge night during the game and immediately got the Eagles off on the right root early in the opening quarter. A fumble recovery by Jamarcus Robertson on Temple’s 2-yard line set up a quarterback keeper by Ethan Crouch to give the Eagles an early 7-0 lead.
After Temple missed a field goal in the opening minutes of the second quarter, big running plays from Crouch and Jacquarias Waller set up another touchdown play as Jadon Williams made his way to the end zone off a pass from Crouch from around the 30-yard line.
“It feels great,” Crouch said about picking up his first win as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. “I’ve been waiting a while for it. I think we all performed well tonight, both on offense and defense.”
Although the Eagles continued their success on offense, the defense wasn’t finished making plays that evening.
Almost immediately after going up 14-0, Marquez Maddox grabbed an interception and returned it all the way to Temple’s 20-yard line. Although the drive was ultimately unsuccessful, Temple had been stripped of a good chunk of time as the first half began to wind down.
Attempting to get points on the board before halftime, a long march down the field was thwarted by another big defensive play by the War Eagles. Another Temple fumble was scooped up by Corey Chatham, who took it all the way down the field and almost into the end zone. Chatham subsequently lost the ball but, fortunately for the Eagles, Robertson grabbed it to finish the play and put the Eagles ahead at halftime, 21-0.
Temple managed to score a touchdown in the beginning of the third quarter, but it was later answered with an effective offensive drive. Kaden Corbitt caught a pass, and Temple was charged with an offside penalty to set up the Eagles’ fourth and final touchdown of the night – a rushing score by Waller.
Corbitt and Jacobee Lane earned a sack together at the end of the third quarter, and Lane picked up a second sack on the first play of the fourth. The War Eagles defense dug in and held off the Tigers for the remainder of the game to earn their first victory of the season with a 28-7 final score.
“It feels good knowing we can actually win after being beat and still believing in the program our coaches built,” Crouch said. “We’re feeling very confident about playing Greene County next week.”
After the game, athletic director Paul Stokes presented Pope with the game ball for his first win as the head coach of the War Eagles.
“It’s awesome,” Pope said about his first win leading the team. “Obviously, it feels good, but I wanted it more for these kids. These kids deserve it. After the spring practice, the summer workouts and going four days a week for about four hours a day in the hot sun, they deserve this win.”
Pope went on to express his gratitude to his fellow coaches, praising them for their hard work and the adjustments they made during practice that led to a victory for the Eagles.
Putnam now sits at a 1-1 record and will go on the road for the first time this season to face Lake County rival Greene County. The Tigers from across the lake are coming off a throwdown with Morgan County that resulted in a narrow, 14-9 defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs.
Putnam and Greene take the field in Greensboro at 7:30 p.m.