SUWANEE — Collins Hill head coach Lenny Gregory challenged his football team to get a shutout during the week.
His players delivered, and were quick to remind him of his end of the bargain during the post-game celebration.
After the Eagles (4-2, 2-0 Region 6-AAAAAAA) shut out rival Peachtree Ridge (1-6, 0-3) 35-0 in a rare Thursday night game, Gregory lived up to the promise he made during the week.
“Every week one of our No. 1 goals is to get a shutout,” Gregory said. “I told the defense if they got a shutout, we’d get doughnuts for everybody. The kids are fired up, and they reminded me of it. We take pride in that. It’s fun for the kids, and Monday we’ll be giving them doughnuts.”
Monday’s doughnuts are one of many things for the Eagles to celebrate, as they are now 2-0 in region play and in a great position with an eye towards the postseason. The win also makes Gregory 3-0 against the Lions, with the combined score in the series since he arrived now sitting at a whopping 76-12 tally.
“Any time you play a rival, you know they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game,” Gregory said. “You can throw the records out in a rivalry game. For our kids to respond and play that well in that kind of game with a bunch of young kids, I’m really proud of them.”
Collins Hill wasted no time getting to work, as the defense forced its first of six, first-half three-and-outs on the game’s opening possession. Peachtree Ridge only gained 19 yards of total offense in the first half, and its only first down came on the final snap of the second quarter. Ridge tried both Kyle Kingsbury and Nick Best at quarterback, but neither could generate a sustained drive until the game was out of reach.
Sam Horn on the other hand was in a rhythm all night for the Eagles, finishing 26-for-31 with 239 yards and three touchdowns. The bulk of it came during a hot second quarter that included 10 consecutive completions, two of which went for touchdowns.
Already leading 7-0 after a 2-yard touchdown run from Jalen Johnson, Horn’s streak began. The first scoring strike was a perfect 21-yard pass to Travis Hunter in the left corner of the end zone after Hunter had left his cornerback in the dust. After another three-and-out from the defense, a 26-yard punt return from Justin Richardson set the Eagles up in plus territory again. The offense capitalized after just four plays when Horn hit Clint Gilbert a bubble screen and Gilbert took it into the end zone for a 13-yard touchdown.
“(Horn's) a legit quarterback,” Gregory said. “I said it all along. You look at last year when we made the switch to go to him, and I think people are starting to see how good he is. His best days are ahead of him, I can tell you that right now.”
Johnson added an exclamation point to the first half when he picked up his second score of the night just 53 seconds before the intermission, a 4-yard scamper off left tackle to make it 28-0.
Once again, the rivalry turned into a rout.
“I think we have a really good football team,” Gregory said. “Our challenge to our kids is to get better each week and try to go 1-0. You take a look at this being a Thursday night game with a lot of distractions as a rivalry, and I’m real proud of my football team for being able to dial in. We played a really clean game without a lot of mistakes.”
The Eagles had one more touchdown drive in the third quarter, but it was a methodical one rooted in the ground game. Spencer Anderson and Nysheim Heatley split carries as Collins Hill dominated at the line of scrimmage. It was a 14-play, 80-yard drive that was almost exclusively rushing plays, but Horn finished it out with a third touchdown pass to as many receivers when he connected with Logan Brown for a 9-yard score.
The defense saved the shutout — and its doughnuts — with a big stop late in the fourth quarter after the only impactful Peachtree Ridge of the night reached the red zone. The unit forced a field goal attempt, and the 34-yard kick sailed wide, prompting huge celebrations from the home sideline.
And if Thursday's performance was any indication, the Eagles will have a lot more than just doughnuts to celebrate as the season moves forward.
“It’s a great day to be a Collins Hill Eagle,” Gregory said to his team. “Collins Hill football is back.”
COLLINS HILL 35, PEACHTREE RIDGE 0
Peachtree Ridge 0 0 0 0 — 0
Collins Hill 7 21 7 0 — 35
Collins Hill: Jalen Johnson 2 run (Isaac Bonacci kick) 6:50
Collins Hill: Travis Hunter 21 pass from Sam Horn (Bonacci kick) 10:50
Collins Hill: Clint Gilbert 13 pass from Horn (Bonacci kick) 7:05
Collins Hill: Johnson 4 run (Bonacci kick) 0:53
Collins Hill: Logan Brown 9 pass from Horn (Bonacci kick) 4:27