Putnam football opens season with big win at Warren By Justin Hubbard

Freshman tight end KadenCorbitt is brought down by a Warren defender, but not before he hauls in a catch.

War Eagles head coach Kyle Gourley calls out instructions to his players during Putnam’s opener at Warren County.

After a year of struggle and misfortune on the football field, Putnam County’s suffering finally paid off on Friday. The War Eagles opened the 2017 season with a 21-6 win at Warren County. They didn’t get their first win last year until Sept. 30 at Oglethorpe County. Putnam’s defense led the way, allowing only 96 total yards. The War Eagles’ offense flashed potential for greatness at certain moments and picked up 276 total yards. Their head coach, Kyle Gourley, said he was happy with his players’ performance despite some moments of weakness. “We played well at times,” Gourley said. “There were some missed opportunities. We could've put a lot more points on the board. We've got room for improvement. If you're the best you're gonna be in game one, it's not a real good sign, so we've got a lot of room to improve.” Tyrique Mathis, a senior defensive back, joined his coach in saying the War Eagles still have work to do. In particular, Mathis wasn’t happy with the way he and the War Eagles handled the latter stages of the game. A bizarre fumble that went airborne resulted in an immediate score for Warren with a little less than eight minutes to play. Later in the fourth quarter, Putnam’s offense stalled a few times and then, defensively, the War Eagles allowed Warren opportunities to move the ball down the field. Ultimately, they came through, but Mathis said he didn’t like seeing his team play with fire. “I feel like we didn't finish the deal because it was late in the game and we thought we had them,” Mathis said. “We've just got to finish the game next time.” Putnam quarterback Simon Petite had an up-and-down first outing of the year. The senior threw an interception on the second drive of the game. He lost one fumble (and nearly lost a couple more) and got hit hard by Warren’s defenders. He also threw a touchdown on a long play to senior Demario Reid and completed several passes to throw for 88 yards. Gourley said he was happy with Petite’s performance given he was forced to sit out during the team’s preseason scrimmage. “He was a little banged up last week, so he didn't get into the scrimmage game so this was his first time in live action,” Gourley said. “He commanded our huddle, he did what a quarterback's supposed to do. He's an on-and-off starter for three years now. He's earned his stripes, and I think he came out and did a good job leading this football team tonight.” Jacquarius Waller got the War Eagles on the board on their third possession of the game. In the fourth quarter, Jaquavious Milner tacked on the third touchdown to help put the game away. Putnam’s rushing attack, in total, racked up 188 yards. Unfortunately for the War Eagles, they also shot themselves in the foot on many occasions. Yellow flags littered Albert J. Massey Field. More often than not, they were thrown because of something Putnam did. Gourley said the team’s mistakes – which resulted in 80 penalty yards – were frustrating, but he’s thankful they were mostly correctable errors. “They were all effort penalties,” he said. “We had way too many holding calls, but that's people giving effort trying to block. We can fix trying to block the right way as long as they'll keep giving that effort next week. … It's a lot more fun to fix effort penalties, because if you've got kids playing hard, you can go a long way.” Those penalties, Gourley said, are one of the two main things the War Eagles must improve as the season moves forward. “We had too many cramps, and it is hot,” Gourley said. “Hydration all week long. It doesn't just start Friday morning; they've got to drink all week long to get ready. And the effort penalties – keep giving that effort, but give it in the right spot. Not having to go fuss about effort Monday is a good thing.” There are still nine games left on the War Eagles’ schedule, including this Friday’s home opener against Hancock Central; but the fact this season started on a high note sets them up for a much-improved season after last year’s 1-9 record. Gourley said he thinks this season will be better than last, and a big reason is the dynamic in the team’s locker room. “They've come in and bought into really being a family,” Gourley said. “I know every team talks about that and I'm sure they talk about that in the locker room. We had a kid that just moved in two weeks ago from another school, and it was a good football school; and he said, 'There's just something...y'all like being around each other. That's a true love for each other.' We've talked to our kids about, 'If you love each other, you're gonna play hard for each other.’” There were new faces on the field for Putnam last week, including Reid. Gourley tipped his hat to the players returning from last season for convincing some of their friends to join in the War Eagles family. “Going out and recruiting the hallways at 1-9 ain't real easy,” he said. “But we had a group of kids who bought into what we were trying to do, and I'm just swelled up with pride for them that they got some fruits of what they bought into.”

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