MARIETTA — Damarion Owens and Kyle Brown catapulted Sprayberry into the state playoffs in a 40-7 victory against River Ridge on Friday at Jim Frazier Stadium.
Owens and Brown combined for 465 yards to lead the Yellow Jackets to victory.
The win, coupled with Sequoyah’s 35-12 loss to Allatoona, gave Brett Vavra his first postseason appearance as the Yellow Jackets’ head coach.
“This feels really good. (Making the playoffs) has been a goal of ours since I took over here,” said Vavra, a Sprayberry alum who was also on staff the last time the Yellow Jackets made the postseason under then-coach Billy Shackelford. “We were not really close in the first two years. We were kind of close last year where we won some games, but just fell short. This year’s group has done a great job of buying into what we have been trying to instill in them.
“I am just proud of them. They deserve it and they have earned it. But now we are not going to be content with just getting there. We want to try to make some noise, and I think we have a good enough team to do it.”
As the No. 3 seed Sprayberry (6-4, 5-3 Region 6AAAAAA) will travel to Region 8AAAAAA runner-up Lanier in the first round of the state playoffs.
Owens rushed for 304 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries, including a 67-yard touchdown on Sprayberry’s second play from scrimmage. He added a 47-yard touchdown run and a 7-yard touchdown run in the last six minutes of the first half and had 276 yards rushing at halftime.
“Offensively, we ran the ball behind Damarion. I thought he ran the ball really well and really hard,” Vavra said. “We knew we needed to start fast. It was big for us to get a fast start on the second play. He is a game-changer because he makes second down a lot easier.”
Owens said it was not hard to find the open holes his linemen were creating for him.
“I couldn’t do anything without my O-line. I thank my O-line every day,” Owens said. “They communicate every play and we do good things. Once I see the green grass, I just try to hit the green grass and get to the second level. I don’t try to do too much. I just try to get downhill and run behind my pads.”
Brown kept River Ridge (3-7, 2-6) honest by going 6-for-10 through the air for 161 yards and three touchdowns. All of Brown’s completions went for a touchdown or a first down.
Fatir Muhammad had a 62-yard touchdown reception, Josh Bush caught an 18-yard touchdown and Djir Thomas had a 26-yard touchdown reception.
“We threw the ball just fine tonight, and we threw it when we needed to,” Vavra said. “The last two weeks of being able to convert third and fourth downs on passes with big plays has been really big for us. Hopefully, we can continue to do that moving forward.”
The Yellow Jackets put up 507 yards of total offense and punted only once.
On the other side of the ball, Sprayberry held River Ridge to 135 yards of total offense and six first downs. Nearly half of those yards — 64 to be exact — came on the Knights’ final drive of the game, when the clock was running on a 40-0 Sprayberry lead.
“Our defensive coordinator, Chris Stewart, put a great plan together,” Vavra said. “Once again, he allowed our kids to play fast and loose. We were very aggressive. I thought we did a good job on Amehre (Morrison), their tailback. We limited them quite a bit and just swarmed to the ball.”
Sprayberry held Morrison to 62 yards on 19 carries.