Gordon Central's Martavius Harris

Gordon Central’s Martavius Harris (6) is surrounded by Pepperell defenders during Friday’s game. (Frank Crowe, For the Calhoun Times)

FRANK CROWE

LINDALE — In the first Region 7-AA action of the season, the Gordon Central Warriors showed tenacity on defense and registered a couple of significant offensive gains early, but were soon overwhelmed by the quickness and play-making prowess of the Pepperell Dragons in a 43-0 defeat on Friday night.

The Warriors (0-4, 0-1) abruptly snatched control of the game in the early portion of the opening quarter when a defender stripped the ball from Pepperell (2-2, 1-0) running back Tae Hammond. After a scrum for the ball, Gordon Central’s John Victor Rainwater emerged from the pile with the fumble recovery.

However, Gordon Central failed to capitalize on Pepperell’s mistake, and fell victim to a perfectly designed jet sweep on the next drive that allowed Dragons wide receiver Connor Chandler to coast past the defense and into the end zone for an 80-yard rushing touchdown. He capped off the play by reversing field and converting the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.

The Gordon Central defensive unit kept its focus, and forced Hammond to surrender the football again on the ensuing possession, with defender Dorian McConnell snatching up the loose ball. This time, the Warriors gave the football right back when quarterback Martavius Harris tossed the ball to defensive back Camron Miles, one of Miles’ two interceptions of Harris on the evening.

Hammond received another opportunity to rush the ball for the Dragons to open the second quarter and responded with a 16-yard dash. He then lowered his shoulder and powered in a two-yard score to push the lead to 14-0.

Chandler and Hammond did most of the heavy lifting for Pepperell on the offensive side of the ball, with Chandler tacking on a 35-yard rushing score via another well-executed sweep play, and Hammond rumbling for a 38-yard touchdown near the end of the half to put the Dragons up 28-0.

Hammond atoned for his earlier mistakes finishing with 92 rushing yards on 12 attempts. Chandler contributed a total of 131 yards on just four carries.

Pepperell added even more insurance when Miles contributed on the offensive side of the ball by taking a pitch of his own in the backfield from Dragons’ quarterback Trevor Thomas, and blazed past the Gordon Central secondary for a 56-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach at 36-0.

Thomas was more of a threat with his legs than his arm during this contest, scrambling for 84 yards on six runs.

It was tough sledding for the Warriors when it came to running the ball against the Pepperell defensive front, who frequently stopped up the running lanes. Gordon Central running back Branson Towe posted 34 yards on nine carries.

Harris rushed for 28 yards on nine touches. Harris didn’t have as much success passing the ball, throwing for 10 yards on two completions against a stingy Pepperell secondary.

The second half was much less eventful for both sides, but the Dragons did get on the board one last time when Hammond punched in a one-yard rushing score after Thomas sprinted for a 66-yard gain.

The Warriors will take another shot at earning victory when Chattooga (0-3) visits Gordon Central next Friday.