SMYRNA — Campbell fell behind 13-0 before most of the fans at McDaniel Stadium could find their seats, but the Spartans roared back to win the season opener 34-20 behind 147 rushing yards and three scores by Tavion Jackson.
It was Campbell’s first opening-night win in three years and came on the heels of its first playoff appearance since 2006.
“We try not to live in the past around here,” second-year coach Kyle Adkins said. “Focus on each week, focus on each opponent. We just try to go 1-0 every week.”
Campbell’s defense shined after an early show by Villa Rica’s Mecose Todd, allowing just three first downs and 29 passing yards. The Spartans (1-0) also caused four turnovers.
Todd returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown 86 yards and took the Wildcats’ first offensive play 69 yards to give Villa Rica a 13-0 lead right out of the gate. But Campbell’s high-powered offense feasted on two Villa Rica turnovers and a bevy of Wildcat penalties to roar back with 27 unanswered points to lead 27-13 at the break.
Class AAAAA Villa Rica (0-1) brought an interesting challenge as a Wing-T team.
“We had a really good week of practice,” said Adkins. “In (Class) 7A, Collins Hill is the only team that runs the Wing-T, so this is something we don’t see a lot of.”
The Spartans defense rose to the challenge, allowing 263 rushing yards but limiting Todd to 17 yards after his initial outburst. Villa Rica threw for just 29 yards and was intercepted twice.
All three of Jackson’s scores — one of them 79 yards — came in the first half, while quarterback Fernando Crawford totaled 162 yards in the first half, including 122 through the air. The Campbell defense silenced the Villa Rica attack after the early deficit.
Villa Rica committed nine penalties for 78 yards in the first half and ended the game with 14 penalties for 113 yards.
It was the second meeting between the schools, both Campbell victories. The last came in 1989, a 27-7 Spartan win.
“This game is the most important because it’s the next one, it’s the first one (of the season),” Adkins said. “This is something we tried to eliminate last year — don’t get up for one opponent then not get up for the other guy. We need to come to play every week. That’s the attitude we want.”
Crawford totaled 161 yards through the air with one score and one interception. The senior quarterback also ran for 82 yards.
Safety Christian Hughes sealed the game for Campbell with an interception of Villa Rica quarterback Noah Best with 4:27 remaining.
Receiver Mah’li Jones finished with 69 receiving yards and five catches and also ran for a score.