Greater Atlanta Christian receiver Trey Morrison let a long, sure touchdown pass slip through his hands early in the first quarter against Lovett on Friday. Call it rust from a long summer or opening game jitters, but whatever it was he more than made up for it with two long touchdown receptions in the second quarter and jumpstarted what would become a 46-14 Spartans road victory at Conley-Oakley Field.
On consecutive drives in the second quarter, Morrison reeled in touchdown passes from Josh Rose of 43 and 39 yards to lift the Spartans to a 20-7 lead, marking the beginning of a 40-0 GAC run.
“I was really determined to make up for that (dropped pass),” said Morrison, a senior who finished with 4 receptions for 99 yards. “(Making the touchdown catches) I felt gave us a big boost. After that we came out much stronger.”
The season opener for both teams was a Class AAA matchup of former region rivals, with the No. 2-ranked Spartans (1-0) beating the No. 7 Lions (0-1) for the fourth consecutive season. It was a sloppy start for both teams, with three lost fumbles, two turnovers on downs and four punts between them before GAC scored the game’s first points on a Kyler McMichael 2-yard run with 39 seconds left in the first quarter. The score was set up by a bizarre Lovett turnover on downs when the Lions’ punter inadvertently kneeled with the ball while attempting to punt, downing it on the Lovett 19. It took McMichael two carries to punch the ball in the end zone.
Lovett responded early in the second quarter by taking advantage of McMichael’s second fumble of the game, using four plays to move the ball 44 yards and scoring on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Crawford Schweiger to KJ Wallace to tie the game. But that would be the last points they’d score until the game’s final minutes.
After Morrison’s second touchdown, the Spartans forced another Lovett punt with 1:17 remaining in the half and scored on a three-play, 49-yard drive that ended on Rose’s 8-yard pass to Max Burke, giving them a 26-7 lead heading into halftime.
Any hopes the Lions had of making it a game were dashed on their opening drive of the second half, which ended in a Spartans interception by Hunter Cole that he returned 18 yards to the GAC 38. Eleven plays later, Rose again found Burke in the end zone to push GAC’s lead to 32-7. The Spartans forced a three-and-out on Lovett’s next possession, then scored on Montae Bailey’s 1-yard run to bring the score to 39-7 and usher in a running clock for the fourth quarter.
For the Spartans, they have their eyes on a return to the AAA title game, where they lost last season to Cedar Grove.
“To play a team like Lovett right off the bat — a perennial semifinal, quarterfinal program — you have to jump right into it,” Spartans coach Tim Hardy said. “Preparing all summer and then to have them at the end of it, it’s great for our team. But this is just the beginning. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Rose finished 14 of 17 passing for 164 yards and four touchdowns and McMichael had 91 rushing yards on 14 carries.
GAC 7 19 13 7 – 46
Lovett 0 7 0 7 – 14
G – Kyler McMichael 10 run (Sean Henderson kick)
L – KJ Wallace 16 pass Crawford Schwieger (Schweiger kick)
G – Trey Morrison 43 pass from Josh Rose (kick failed)
G – Morrison 39 pass from Rose (Henderson kick)
G – Max Burke 8 pass from Rose (kick failed)
G – Burke 3 pass from Rose (kick failed)
G – Montae Bailey 1 run (Henderson kick)
G – Jackson Hardy 1 run (Tyler Curland kick)
L – Will Bray 24 pass from Blaine McAllister (Schweiger kick)