It was three years ago that the Banks County Leopards won their last opening game to start football season. However, that game wasn’t nearly as exciting as the game last Friday as Banks County surged over Social Circle for a 40-14 victory.
In what coach Blair Armstrong described as a “great team effort,” the Leopards played as a solid unit on both sides of the ball to rack up more than 400 yards in total offense, while Big Blue held the Redskins to less than 150 yards of total offense, with less than 90-yards in the first half while Banks County jumped out to a 19-0 lead. That was enough of a lead for Banks County to hold out for the victory and to finish strong.
Being able to finish has been a keystone for Armstrong since he took over the Leopards four seasons ago.
Last year, especially, Banks County hit some snags in a few games running out of steam before hitting four quarters. To combat this the Leopards spent the summer training and Armstrong said he felt that was an important factor in the victory over Social Circle.
“The kids worked really, really hard and it was probably on of the better games we have played since I have been here,” said Armstrong. “It was a great effort, a team effort. There wasn’t any individualism.”
Now that the Leopards have one win under their belts, Banks County will look for a second win this week as the team heads to Gainesville to face the Eagles of Riverside Military. Banks County has more of an invested interest in this non-region game as Armstrong and the Leopards look to make up for last season’s loss when Banks dropped a 12-point lead to fall to Riverside, 23-12.
Riverside has many fresh faces, 47 of the 56-member team are new to the Eagles, and Riverside is starting a freshman quarterback and a freshman running back, both of which Armstrong described as “extremely talented.” Banks County has several key players back and other than “a few bumps and bruises” are in good shape this season. Armstrong said that he expects everyone to be 100 percent by Friday night and ready to go.
According to Armstrong, the Riverside team has historically worked well together and have “lots of talent” this season. If the Social Circle game was any indication, the Leopards have a strong team that with a little effort can control both sides of the ball. Banks County has spent more time together as a team than Riverside, which only started practice as a whole team in August.
Riverside has already had a taste of winning and losing this season, opening with a win on Aug. 20, and being steamrolled last week by Lumpkin County, 35-0. Banks County looks to settle the score and give another taste of losing to Riverside this Friday. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Riverside’s stadium.
It was time to celebrate for the Leopards last week as the Banks County boys opened with a 40-14 win over Social Circle.
One of the most exciting moments came on the kickoff for the second half as Banks County returned for the length of the field to score.
“We haven’t been strong at finishing what we start for the past several years and I was really proud to us finish what we started. It was exciting,” Armstrong said. “It was a good feeling. I don’t think anybody had picked us to win. When you are the underdog and you come out and win handily like that, it is a good feeling.”
For the Big Blue, it was a good night on either side of the ball. Leopards’ quarterback Harrison Dale threw a total 76 yards passing. Dale also held onto it, averaging 7.9-yards on seven carries for 55 yards on the QB-keeper.
Returning to the gridiron following knee surgery, senior fullback Dylan Lackey picked up 145 yards and headed into the end zone three times to score. Lackey averaged 7.6 yards per carry, while senior teammate and halfback Jeremy Greenway averaged 7.2 yards as he rushed for 94 yards, off 13 carries.
Armstrong said that Greenway is like the Energizer Bunny, because "he just won't go down.”
Greenway also led the defense charge with 11 tackles, four for loss, and an interception. Matthew Patton was put to work as defensive coordinator Paul Hoch’s new design takes advantage of Patton’s skill on defensive line and as linebacker.
“He can disrupt the opposing lines by blitzing from linebacker position or by lining up on the defensive line and causing havoc,” said Armstrong.
Patton had nine takedowns.
Junior, Jameson Flynn added seven tackles, while second year starter Eli Smallwood, a sophomore, had six tackles as the outside linebacker.
Eli Autry made two tackles for loss, further showing the pressure Banks County asserted on the Social Circle backfield.
Kenny Langston also stepped up, he had five takedowns and a sack.
“Our defense did an outstanding job,” said Armstrong.
With the defensive line taking care of business to halt Social Circle, the offensive line provided ample coverage for the ball carriers as Joseph Denton, Isaac Mayfield, Nathan Mathis, Parker Watson, Autry and Patton kept the pressure off of Lackey and Greenway.
Social Circle wouldn’t get into the end zone for three quarters as Banks County turned up the heat. Following a lighting delay, the Redskins managed to get on the board after the game restarted.