If Johns Creek’s offense was summed up in one word, it might be "balanced."
North Forsyth saw it first-hand, falling to the Gladiators 34-7 on Friday at Raider Valley.
Johns Creek starting quarterback Skye Overton did not play, but the Gladiators looked fine without him. Running back Chase Solomon rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries while Johns Creek split its quarterback duties between Jack Dewsee (4 of 8, 52 passing yards) and John Grayson (5 of 8, 105 yards, TD).
Both fared well and frequently connected with Gladiators receiver Andrew Szambelan, who had five receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.
"[Johns Creek] is a well disciplined team, very well coached," said North Forsyth head coach Blair Armstong. "They didn’t punt much early, we did, so we’ve got to just get better."
The Gladiators (8-1, 4-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) started the opening drive of the game on their 22-yard line but needed just three plays to get in the end zone. Solomon ran the ball all three times, breaking open a 64-yard touchdown run up the right sideline on his third carry.
North (3-6, 0-6) forced the Gladiators into a fourth-and-10 at the Raider 30 on their next possession, but that was close enough for kicker Kyle Fowler to send a 47-yard field goal sailing through the uprights.
Down 10-0 early, the Raiders needed to respond and did, putting together an eight-play, 71-yard drive touchdown drive that included two third down conversions.
On second-and-6 at the Johns Creek 44-yard line, Raider quarterback Harris Roberts (6 of 16, 92 passing yards, INT) hit a single-covered Bailey Maulden (4 receptions, 73 receiving yards) for a 56-yard touchdown strike down the middle of the field, cutting the gap to 10-7 with 2:08 remaining in the first quarter.
The Gladiators responded with a six-play, 68-yard drive touchdown drive. Dewsee (3 carries, 64 rushing yards) finished the series with a 46-yard run followed by a three-yard score, putting Johns Creek ahead 17-7 with 26.4 left in the first quarter.
North punted on its next drive and, this time, Johns Creek needed only two plays to add another score.
Following a three-yard run by Solomon, Grayson found Szamnelan deep on the right sideline. Szamnelan then shed a defender and then cut it back up the middle, outrunning a trio of Raider defenders for a 59-yard score with 4:02 remaining in the second quarter.
The Raiders threatened on the ensuing drive, moving into Gladiators territory off of a 40-yard run by Nick Scott (25 carries, 106 rushing yards) on the second play from the 21-yard line.
Six plays later on fourth and 14, Raiders kicker Vince Sciorrotta lined up for a 37-yard field goal with 1:21 remaining in the half. Sciorrotta’s kick had the distance, but it sailed to the left and missed the uprights.
"It’s the little things that make the difference," Armstong said. "There were two or three opportunities to score, and we didn’t take advantage of them."
The second half produced no scoring opportunities for the Raiders. The farthest they went into Johns Creek territory was the Gladiator 41-yard line.
Johns Creek added to its lead with 5:08 remaining in the third when Fowler hit a 49-yard field goal. Solomon finished the scoring with a 29-yard run with 8:33 remaining in the game.
The Raiders, who celebrated senior night, will close out the season this Friday at rival South Forsyth (3-6, 0-6).
"I’m just proud of [the seniors], they’ve worked so hard, they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do," Armstrong said. "... They’ve set some benchmarks, some landmarks for our younger kids to follow and looking forward to a great future because of what they’ve done this year."