ROME — Against one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, the Rome Wolves prevailed with defense on the way to a 33-21 win over the Harrison Hoyas on Friday at Barron Stadium.
The Wolves (1-0) scored 14 points on two forced two turnovers — including a 32-yard fumble return by Ja’Quon Griffin on the game’s opening drive — and limited the run threat of Hoyas quarterback Justin Fields to 78 rushing yards on 18 carries, sacking him four times for a loss of 32 yards.
Fields still totaled 311 yards including 21-of-30 passing and had three scores — two passing and one rushing — but that paled in comparison to his 381 total yards and six touchdowns the week before against East Paulding.
The Wolves — ranked No. 1 in AAAAA as the defending state champs — were led by Adam Anderson, who had two sacks and knocked the ball loose from Fields on Griffin’s fumble return.
“We played amazing,” said Anderson, a 6-foot-4, 214-pound senior lineman who’s a four-star recruit at linebacker. “Teamwork and talking to each other…we kept it going. I feel like this win proves where we’re at and where we need to stay at.”
The Hoyas (1-1), ranked No. 2 in AAAAAA, would respond to Rome’s first score with a 14-play, 80-yard drive capped by Fields’ 12-yard strike to Steven Peterson, but the Wolves scored on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter — a 24-yard Jamious Griffin run and 22-yard Jose Leon field goal — to take a 17-7 lead into halftime.
Adjusting to the Wolves’ blitzing attack, Harrison came out in the second half with Fields throwing quick strike passes, including one on an out route to Lawrence Shadd near the sideline — Shadd turned the corner and raced to the end zone for a 40-yard score. On the Hoyas’ next possession they took a 21-17 lead when, on first-and-12, Fields beat a two-man rush to the sideline for a 12-yard scoring run with 3:14 left in the third quarter.
Rome responded on the ensuing drive with a 47-yard Xavier Roberts reception from Knox Kadum, taking a 23-21 lead.
On Harrison’s next possession, Fields completed a 10-yard pass to Micah Davis on the Wolves’ 32, but a Rome defender knocked the ball loose and the Wolves recovered. Eight plays later, they scored on a flea-flicker pass from Kadum to Roberts for a 30-yard score, putting Rome in the driver’s seat for a 30-21 lead with 8:02 remaining. Harrison’s next two possessions would end in a punt and interception, sandwiched by another 22-yard field goal from Leon to pad the Wolves’ lead and bring the score to its final margin.
“Defensively I thought we played good enough,” Wolves coach John Reid said. “I think the scoop-and-score was huge and we won the turnover battle. We played decent on special teams and we had just enough offense. I think all that together creates a win.”
Harrison had one last possession with 2:24 remaining, but put its subs in and ran the clock out.
Kadum finished 9 of 14 passing for 197 yards and two scores, both to Roberts who had 96 receiving yards on five catches. Griffin led the Rome rushing attack with 93 yards and a score on 18 carries.
Fields led the Hoyas in rushing, while Shadd finished with 68 yards on three catches and Peterson had 64 yards on five catches.
Harrison 7 0 14 0 – 21
Rome 7 10 6 10 – 33
R – Ja’Quon Griffin 32 fumble return (Jose Leon kick)
H – Steven Peterson 12 pass from Justin Fields (Alex Raynor kick)
R – Jamious Griffin 24 run (Leon kick)
R – Leon 22 FG
H – Lawrence Shadd 40 pass from Fields (Raynor kick)
H – Fields 12 run (Raynor kick)
R – Xavier Roberts 47 pass from Knox Kadum (kick failed)
R – Roberts 30 pass from Kadum (Leon kick)
R – Leon 22 FG