SHARPSBURG — Playing without top running backs Travone Finney and Shannon Payton due to injury, Dwight Phillips Jr. stepped in at the position for Pebblebrook and delivered a performance that may see him in the backfield more often.
The sophomore rushed 13 times for 237 yards and two touchdowns to lead Pebblebrook to a 38-21 victory over East Coweta in the Region 2AAAAAAA opener at Garland Shoemake Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
The win kept Pebblebrook (6-0-1, 1-0) unbeaten on the season and gave the Falcons their second win in 12 tries against East Coweta (5-2, 0-1), snapping an eight-game losing streak in the series.
“I’m just confident in my ability,” Phillips said. “I believe in myself and I believe in our team. We knew we were going to shock the world (Friday). We knocked off a top-10 team, so I’m pretty excited.”
Briyar Powers had four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns, while Qamar Grant finished 10-for-22 passing for 202 yards and three scores.
“We’re going to enjoy this one,” Pebblebrook coach Leroy Hood said. “It’s the first region game, and it was an opportunity to see where we stand compared to the rest of the state.
“It was a true team effort. These guys are trusting in the process and working hard during the week to take this program in a new direction. I’m really proud of what these kids showed (Friday).”
East Coweta scored early in the first half following Daniel Shoch’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Amaryion Ross and Lucca Labattaglio’s extra-point try.
Pebblebrook took control of the rest of the half, outscoring the Indians 31-0 to take a 31-7 halftime lead
The Falcons quickly answered the Indians score behind Qamar Grant’s 51-yard touchdown reception to Briyar Powers and John Diaz’s point-after.
Diaz added a 26-yard field goal late in the first period to put Falcons ahead 10-7.
Pebblebrook ran four offensive plays in the second quarter, three of which went for touchdowns.
Phillips burst through the middle of the defense for a 77-yard scoring run on the first play from scrimmage on the Falcons’ first drive of the period. He scored on the same exact play on the next possession, rambling up the middle for an 84-yard run.
Grant rushed for 5 yards to begin Pebblebrook’s next drive before firing a 57-yard touchdown toss to Da’mion Thompson to conclude the Falcons’ first half scoring barrage.
“It’s next man up at all times,” Hood said about Phillips, Jr. at running back. “(Finney) and (Payton) are like a two-headed monster back there. But, you can’t coach speed, and Dwight has the mentality that he’s going to score whenever he touches the ball. He’s a home run threat, and he makes our offense more dynamic.”
Pebblebrook extended its advantage to 38-7 late in the third period after Powers caught a 28-yard touchdown reception from Grant.
East Coweta scored twice during a fourth quarter running clock to trim the deficit as Shoch found the end zone from 11 yards out with 8:43 left to play connected with Colt Cortez for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 2:07 remaining.
Pebblebrook’s defense played a huge role in the first half, sacking Shoch four times and recording an interception. The unit totaled six sacks on the evening with Justin Blan logging two, Dontavius Phillips, Malik Montgomery and Jordan Paul each with one and Tyler Swann and Nigel Nerese each with a half-sack.
Javari Peeples notched the interception midway through the first quarter, but Pebblebrook was unable to convert the turnover into points.
“Our defense definitely took what their offense gave us,” Hood said. “Those guys were prepared and they did a great job (Friday).”
Shoch completed 17-of-33 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and an interception for East Coweta. Zander Simmons had six catches for 93 yards, while Cole Fant rushed 17 times for 51 yards.