We2 Stan FB 2020

Caleb Turrentine / Tallapoosa Publishers Wetumpka’s Jaedyn Peterson (8) is tackled by Stanhope Elmore’s DJ McGhee (6) and Avion Miles.

The Stanhope Elmore defense saved its best performance of the season for the region finale and it came at the expense of county rival Wetumpka. The Mustangs limited the high-flying Wetumpka offense to just 198 yards and two scores while getting some big plays from the defensive line on their way to a 23-13 victory at Foshee-Henderson Stadium, the third-straight win for Stanhope Elmore in the rivalry series.

“It’s always big getting a win over your rival,” SEHS coach Brian Bradford said. “And it’s great for our kids because this is the best we played all year. We put everything together tonight and it’s good to do that this late in the year. We know we’re better than what we have been showing so to get this is huge.”

Stanhope Elmore (5-4, 4-2 Class 6A Region 3) allowed a touchdown on Wetumpka’s second drive of the night as the visitors momentarily took a 7-6 lead but that was all the space they were given during the first half. Wetumpka’s next possession started inside its own 5 and it ended with Stanhope Elmore’s Caleb Foster recovering a fumble on the first play of the drive.

Three plays later, the Mustangs took the lead on a 24-yard field goal from Jacob Bryant and they never looked back. Wetumpka (5-5, 4-2) did not record a first down for the rest of the half and finished with just 15 plays run in the first 24 minutes of the game.

“They are very good on defense and we just didn’t seem very in sync,” Wetumpka coach Tim Perry said. “I’ll take responsibility for that. Right now, I’m not sure what happened. We had some uncharacteristic mistakes that we normally don’t make as far as execution.”

Stanhope Elmore had some early troubles of its own on offense after playmaker Teddy Harris went down with a leg injury in the first quarter and never returned to the field. The offense had to turn elsewhere for production and most of it came from running back Antonio Trone.

Trone was the workhorse for the Mustangs, finishing with 114 yards on 29 carries including the game’s opening touchdown on a 10-yard run right after the injury to Harris.

“We normally throw the ball a little bit more but we had some success early running the football then Teddy went out,” Bradford said. “When somebody goes down, somebody else steps up and we were proud to see that. That’s what good football teams do.”

Tight end Chase Eddings also got in on the action, becoming the go-to receiver for quarterback Trey Killingsworth. The two players connected four times for 62 yards and a touchdown right before the end of the first half to extend the lead to two possessions.

“He stepped up and had a monster night tonight,” Bradford said. “We ran behind him all night long and he was opening a lot of holes. Then it was good to be able to get him into the passing game as well because he was trucking folks left and right. He’s a load to bring down.”

Stanhope Elmore got the ball to start the second half and wasted no time getting back down the field as Amahji Truss punched it in from 4 yards out for the Mustangs’ final score. The drive took just seven plays to span 64 yards and put it a big dent in Wetumpka’s comeback hopes.

“We only ran a handful of plays the whole first half so the defense was out there a lot,” Perry said. “We can’t expect them to go out and shut everybody down every time. We have to move the ball.”

The rest of the night belonged to Stanhope Elmore’s defensive linemen as they lived in the Wetumpka backfield, making life uncomfortable for Wetumpka quarterback Robert Rose. The Mustangs finished with eight sacks, led by four from recent Memphis commit William Whitlow Jr., totaling a loss of 45 yards.

“We wanted to put pressure on him because he’s a great quarterback,” Bradford said. “We didn’t want him to sit in the pocket and we wanted to force him to scramble. The defensive line did a good job of pressuring him and getting him out of sync a little bit.”

Rose still managed to make some plays, finishing with 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Tavarse Murphy and Rudarius Anthony through the air. However, the Mustangs limited him as well as the rest of the backfield on the ground as Wetumpka finished with just 20 rushing yards on 24 carries.

“It was just relentless play out of the players,” Bradford said. “(Defensive coordinator Hunter) Adams did a tremendous job with the game plan but the kids playing with passion and flying to the football all night. The credit goes to them. They played lights out.”

The two teams finish region play with identical records and remain in a three-way tie with Helena for the No. 2 seed in the region. The tiebreaker will come down to the number of wins by defeated non-region opponents which will be determined next week.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.