MARIETTA — Behind a defense that allowed on 75 yards and forced four turnovers, Kell rolled past 27-7 on Friday at Cobb EMC/Corky Kell Stadium.
“We were able to handle them on the line of scrimmage as far as our defensive line versus their offensive line,” Kell coach Brett Sloan said. “We took the run game away and made them do some things they weren’t comfortable doing.”
With the win, Kell (7-2, 5-2 Region 7AAAAA) secured the No. 3 seed for the state playoffs, regardless of what happens in next week’s regular-season finale at Woodland.
An 11-yard touchdown pass from Corbin LaFrance to Jaylon Brown on the opening possession of the second half gave Kell a 24-7 lead that was not challenged the rest of the night.
The Longhorns fought through a slow start on offense that saw them held to 68 yards in the first half. Kell was its own enemy at times as they had four mishandled snaps or handoffs in the first two quarters.
The Longhorns settled down in the second half and were able to run the ball more effectively, with David Mbadinga tallying 73 of his 86 rushing yards in the second half.
“A lot of it was (Hiram’s) nose tackle was really good, and he was giving the center issues on the exchange,” Sloan said. “They we’re trying really hard to take our outside zone play away, so we tried to come back and run inside to counteract that, and that gave us some creases in the second half.”
The Longhorns stymied Hiram’s rushing attack and harassed Hornets quarterback Zander May throughout the night. Led by Bill McCritty and Vincent Dinkins up front, the Longhorns sacked Hiram’s quarterbacks nine times. Defensive back Miykayah Vinson came down with three interceptions to further the woes of the Hornets’ offense.
Things started ominously for Kell when, on the second play from scrimmage, Hiram receiver Dylan Stockunas took what was a jump ball on the sideline an additional 45 yards to give the Hornets a 7-0 lead.
Kell responded with fireworks of its own as Xavier Parris took the ensuing kickoff 95 yards to tie the game.
The Longhorns’ defense rebounded by forcing a three-and-out on the next possession. A muffed snap on the following punt set Kell’s offense up on Hiram’s 19-yard line and the Longhorns went on to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Colby Kerns after their offense stalled out at the 5-yard line.
On Hiram’s next offensive series, Kell linebacker Avery Barron forced a fumble from May. Branson Hall recovered the fumble, setting the Longhorns’ offense up at Hiram’s 13-yard line. A 6-yard touchdown pass from LaFrance to Jamal Hill pushed the Longhorns to a 17-7 advantage midway through the first quarter.