PEACHTREE CORNERS — After an encouraging non-region schedule highlighted by two marquee wins, Wesleyan carried its confidence into Region 5-A.
J.C. French threw for five touchdown passes, all to different receivers, and Class A's fourth-ranked Wolves opened region play by overwhelming Our Lady of Mercy 51-7 on homecoming Friday at Henderson Stadium.
Wesleyan (4-0) jumped out to a 44-0 lead at halftime and enjoyed a smooth ride to its first tally in the region win column. It's the Wolves' largest margin of victory of the year after a tough non-region slate that included a wins against Class AAAAAAA's Meadowcreek and Class A's sixth-ranked Prince Avenue Christian two weeks ago.
It was the goal of head coach Franklin Pridgen to have his team battle tested before region games, and Friday's outcome indicated that the plan worked.
"I feel really strongly about playing a tough schedule," Pridgen said. "I think it's only against tough opponents that you really can measure yourself accurately. Quite frankly, I agree in the concept that adversity teaches stronger lessons than success does."
Wesleyan entered this week at No. 2 in the Class A Private power ratings, which ultimately determines seeding for Class A Private and Public playoffs. It's the Wolves' highest rating since the system was introduced in 2012.
That's enough to spark excitement within the program, especially considering the nature of the non-region wins. The 30-19 Aug. 23 victory over Meadowcreek was Wesleyan's first ever against a Class AAAAAAA team and the 24-14 victory over Prince Avenue Christian on Sept. 6 avenged a second-round playoff loss that ended the Wolves' 2018 season.
Their legitimacy as a title contender will continue to be tested in a tough Region 5-A, which includes an Oct. 4 showdown with top-ranked and four-time defending champion Eagle's Landing Christian in McDonough. Wesleyan hosts Holy Innocents next week before the prime matchup.
"They're taking nothing for granted," Pridgen said. "I love the personality of this team. I feel like there is still more for them to do. Each week is a new challenge and they're ready to embrace it. Certainly they believe that they are an elite team in our classification, up there with the very best. They are eager each week to prove that."
French commanded a Wesleyan offense that simply outmatched OLM (0-4, 0-1 Region 5-A) in virtually every aspect. He was 11 of 14 for 163 yards and threw TD passes in the first half to Micah Smith, Cooper Blauser, Vance Nicklaus, Andrew Van Wie and Hunter Haran.
Wyatt Hodges also rushed for a 30-yard score.
The Wolves scored on every first-half possession and finished the game outgaining the Bobcats 281-122.
Wesleyan's defense was equally as dominant. It jumped on a botched punt snap in OLM's end zone for a safety in the second quarter, further weighing the game heavily in the Wolves' favor. They racked up 14 tackles for loss on the night and didn't allow the Bobcats to cross midfield until the fourth quarter.
"I couldn't be happier with the way that we played," Pridgen said. "I couldn't be happier with our execution. I thought tonight was great on so many fronts, not the least of which is that we scored eight times, and that includes a safety. We scored with eight different people. I think that's really special — that's a testament to our team concept."
Wesleyan switched to their backups in the second half with a running clock. Byrne Ahrenkiel highlighted the half with a hard-earned 20-yard TD run after breaking a series of OLM tackles.
The Bobcats finally enjoyed a productive drive in the fourth quarter as quarterback Bryson Mullins broke open for runs of 31 and 40 yards, the latter being his team's only TD of the game.
OLM, based out of Fayetteville, lost its 15th straight game dating back to the 2017 season.
WESLEYAN 51, OUR LADY OF MERCY 7
OLM 0 0 0 7 — 7
Wesleyan 21 23 0 7 — 51
Wesleyan: Wyatt Hodges 30 run (Javy Martinez kick), 10:26
Wesleyan: Micah Smith 17 pass from J.C. French (Martinez kick), 5:43
Wesleyan: Cooper Blauser 44 pass from French (Martinez kick), 2:55
Wesleyan: Vance Nicklaus 2 pass from French (Martinez kick), 10:25
Wesleyan: Andrew Van Wie 11 pass from French (Martinez kick), 7:50
Wesleyan: Safety, 5:03
Wesleyan: Hunter Haran 1 pass from French (Martinez kick), 3:35
Wesleyan: Byrne Ahrenkiel 20 run (Brooks Sturgeon kick), 9:45
OLM: Bryson Mullins 40 run (Ashton Hennie-Road), 6:26