MARIETTA -- A stingy defense and the combination of Damarion Owens and Josh Bush running the ball allowed Sprayberry to pull off a 20-17 win against Dalton Friday at Jim Frazier Stadium.
Jahmyr Gibbs, a Georgia Tech commit, entered the game averaging 265 yards rushing and nearly five touchdowns per game for the Catamounts, but the Yellow Jackets held Gibbs to 93 yards rushing and no scores on 21 carries. The win was Sprayberry's first-ever victory against Dalton in 12 tries.
The Catamounts (6-2, 4-2 in Region 6-6A) were leading at halftime, 17-7, and managed only 265 yards of total offense.
"It was combination of things. Overall, they had a really good game plan," Dalton coach Matt Land said. "This is the game we kind of knew we had coming. A bunch of things caught up with us tonight."
Sprayberry coach Brett Vavra agreed.
"I thought our defensive staff did a really good job of putting a plan together to kind of limit Jahmyr and their offense," Vavra said. "I am just so proud of my kids and my coaches. We were just able to limit him. You look at him on film and if he gets one (big run) then he just starts stringing them together and he didn't do that to us tonight."
Owens led all players with 110 yards rushing and a touchdown on 24 carries, and Bush chipped in 149 yards of total offense with 75 yards on eight carries and eight catches for 74 yards.
"Damarion Owens is a stud. He is a workhorse. He had a lot of tough yards tonight," Vavra said. "And then it is a good mix up with Josh Bush in there. He brings a different pace and a little different quickness and speed that Damarion doesn't have. He has a different skill set. Those two are our workhorses on offense and they did a great job tonight."
The Yellow Jackets made two key mistakes with less than one minute left in the first half that swung momentum to the Dalton sideline. Sprayberry was leading 7-3 with 45 seconds to play in the half when Kyle Brown threw an interception that was returned 68 yards for a touchdown, but a block in the back negated the touchdown. Dalton went 50 yards in three plays for the touchdown and the 10-7 lead with 22 seconds left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Yellow Jackets fumbled the ball back to the Catamounts and the Catamounts scored on a 7-yard run on the next play for the lead at halftime. However, Vavra said his players found a way to swing the momentum back to their sideline.
"Obviously they had three big plays near the end of the first half when we made some pretty critical mistakes, but we told our kids that if our offense could come back out, put something together and score, which I think we did on the second or third series (of the second half), that would get us right back in the game," Vavra said. "And that is what we did. I am just so proud of our kids for fighting.
"We just kept our kids up. They knew it was two critical mistakes so it wasn't like they were beating us up. I thought we were somewhat dominant at times in the first half, but it was just those big plays they made. We just kept our kids calm at halftime and kept telling that we are still in this thing."
Brown may have thrown the interception that swung the momentum in the first half, but he helped swing the momentum back as well but scoring the only two touchdowns in the second half. He punched in a 2-yard run in the third quarter to cut the Catamounts lead to 17-13. He then found Deji Thomas in the back of the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown pass that gave Sprayberry a 20-17 lead with 2:04 to play in the game.
Land said up until the final whistle, there was nothing but determination from his players, who have been banged up for a good portion of the season.
Dalton is off next Friday before hosting Allatoona on Nov. 1.
"Our guys hung in there, and I'm really proud of them for that," Land said. "We need to just hit the breaks and focus on getting healthy. Then we'll be right back to work."
Daily Citizen-News sports editor Emmalee Molay contributed to this report.