But when Buccaneers coach Gary Varner had to move starting tailback T.J. Herron to fullback heading into Friday’s game at North Paulding, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
As Herron conceded the starting tailback position to sophomore Josh Bettistea, good things happened. Bettistea rushed for 344 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead seventh-ranked Allatoona past the Wolfpack 56-27 in the penultimate game of Region 5AAAAA play.
Bettistea had 209 yards by halftime.
“We had a lot of injuries this week, so I asked T.J. if he would move to fullback and let Josh play tailback,” said Varner, whose team improved to 9-0 on the season and in region play. “I can’t say enough about T.J.’s sacrifice. To have a senior step aside like that says a lot about his character.
“Josh was great (Friday), and our offensive line worked hard all night to open up holes.”
Herron also had a big night for Allatoona in his fullback role. He had 16 carries for 124 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Buccaneers gained 461 yards on the ground.
North Paulding coach Scott Jones said his team had no answer for Allatoona’s powerful backs.
“They were just too physical for us,” said Jones, the former Kennesaw Mountain and South Cobb coach. “We just couldn’t contain their running game, and you have to try to keep them from breaking off big plays, and we didn’t do a good job of that.”
Allatoona scored on two of its first three possessions in the first quarter — on a 5-yard-run by Bettistea and a 78-yard scoring pass from Jeremy Uzee to Clarence Soleberry.
After North Paulding (6-3, 6-3) cut the lead to 14-7 on a 5-yard pass from Chase Noonan to Mac Seagle at the end of the first quarter, the Buccaneers scored 21 unanswered points to put the game away by the third quarter.
A smiling Bettistea said after the game that he definitely didn’t expect to have the kind of night that he had against North Paulding.
“I wasn’t thinking about how many yards I had,” Bettistea said. “I was just trying to play my game. I want to thank my offensive linemen because, if it wasn’t for them, this (344 yards) wouldn’t have happened.”
Bettistea’s emergence as another key weapon couldn’t have come at a better time as Allatoona will travel to fellow unbeaten East Paulding next week for the Region 5AAAAA championship.