LIVE OAK — Suwannee High didn’t have the ball very much Friday night.
But with a big-play offense, coupled with a big night on special teams, the Bulldogs didn’t need to in a 35-7 win against rival Hamilton County.
Suwannee, which improved to 3-0 and extended its winning streak to 21 games against the 0-3 Trojans, ran just 23 offensive plays — four in the second half.
“We would have liked some more possessions,” Suwannee coach Kyler Hall said. “But at the end of the day, we’re happy with the win.”
Those few plays, though, didn’t slow down Suwannee, which scored four offensive touchdowns on its first 20 plays.
That 20th play was the longest play and one of the quickest scores of the night for Suwannee. Taking over at their own 35 after the second half kickoff went out of bounds, the Bulldogs scored on the first play when quarterback Tyree Taylor sliced straight up the middle untouched for a 65-yard romp.
“Hat’s off to Suwannee,” HCHS coach Richard Vester said. “That’s a pretty dang good football team. That’s about as good of a Suwannee team as I’ve seen in awhile.”
It was the second score of the night for Taylor, who had a game-high 123 yards on just four carries. Taylor put Suwannee ahead for good barely four minutes in the game when he capped a four-play drive with a 26-yard run, bowling over a Hamilton defensive back at the end of the run. He also had a 22-yard run on that possession as Suwannee rushed for 212 yards on 14 carries as a team.
“He’s doing a good job and that just makes him more dangerous when he’s that run threat,” Hall added. “That’s another part of our offense that when that’s clicking, makes us pretty dangerous.”
Short fields helped produce Suwannee’s next two scores as DeMarius Thompson scored on runs of 5 and 9 yards on drives of 30 and 9 yards, the first coming after a short punt and the second after a high snap sent Hamilton punter Jeremiah Gibson scrambling from his own end zone before being tackled three yards shy of a first down.
The longest Suwannee drive of the night was an eight-play drive that opened the second quarter. It was also the only first-half possession that didn’t end in a Bulldog touchdown as Malachi Graham pinned the Trojans at the 2 with a 37-yard punt.
It helped set up the short field for the third Suwannee score after the bad punt snap.
The Graham punt was also just the start of the Bulldogs’ special play on special teams.
After the Taylor run to open the third quarter, Matthew Gookins placed a kickoff just inbounds down the home sideline that was recovered by Keiwan Ladler.
Following a Suwannee turnover one play later, Jaquez Moore delivered his second big return in as many weeks when he returned a punt 35 yards for the Bulldogs’ final score.
“Matthew Gookins had an exceptional game kicking the ball, his placement was exactly what we were trying to get,” Hall said. “And then Jaquez had a big-time punt return.
“The special teams is going to be huge for us down the stretch. That’s the deal breaker there. That can get you over the top or get you beat.”
The Bulldogs only ran two more plays with the Trojans’ run-first offense and a running clock shortening the game.
After moving the ball successfully most of the game, Hamilton finally finished off a drive to finish off the game. Getting the ball one play into the fourth quarter on a Suwannee fumble, the Trojans went 61 yards in 14 plays that spanned the rest of the game with Tyler Whetstone sneaking in from the 1.
“Our kids didn’t even know it was toward the end of the game, they just kept playing,” Vester said as HCHS converted four third downs on the drive, including a 10-yard Ahmawe Bell run on third-and-9 and an 18-yard Whetstone pass to Kane Miller on third-and-9.
“They’ve got a lot of heart. It’s like I just told them, ‘There’s no better way to finish a football game than with a touchdown and a PAT.’ That was certainly a bright spot and a nice note to end on.”
Whetstone, Bell and Miller all three rushed for 35 yards as Hamilton had 144 as a team on 55 attempts.
It was the fifth time the Trojans had moved into Suwannee territory. Three ended on turnovers on downs and the other ended when a high snap on a field goal attempt at the end of the first half led to a loss by Gibson and a fumble.
“We moved the ball and when we get into the red zone, we’ve got to finish,” Vester added. “We’ve got to eliminate the mental mistakes and finish.”
Hamilton County returns home to host Lanier County (Ga.). The Bulldogs are 0-2 and didn't play Friday night.
Suwannee heads to Madison to face the Class 1A top-ranked Madison County Cowboys. MCHS is 3-0 after beating Rickards 28-6 on Thursday.