While Savannah Christian’s Division I prospects have gotten a lot of attention, there’s room – a need, really – on a football team for those slightly on the edges of the spotlight to contribute in big ways.
Such was the case Friday night at rival Savannah Country Day in the Region 3-3A opener for both squads. Raiders stars such as defensive lineman Elijah Griffin, defensive end/tight end Logan Brooking and wide receiver/linebacker David Bucey, a South Carolina commit, showed with their stellar play why Power 5 conference programs are recruiting them.
A pair of juniors without as much fanfare, running back Zo Smalls and wide receiver/cornerback Kenry Wall, also made major impacts as Savannah Christian shut out Country Day 35-0.
Wall had a hat trick of sorts with an 8-yard touchdown run to open the scoring, then made a dazzling catch in the end zone on a 24-yard pass from sophomore Blaise Thomas – in his first year as the starter – for the game’s second touchdown. The sticky-fingered Wall also caught a ball tipped by a Hornets receiver for an interception.
The 5-foot-7, 155-pound Wall said he practices making such catches all the time.
“Blaise (Thomas) gives me a shot and I go up and get the ball and make plays,” said Wall, whose touchdown catch would be labeled a 50-50 ball, except it was more like 40-60 in the Hornet defender’s favor before Wall tipped it to himself.
“I kind of put my shoulder back and grabbed it with my left and pulled it in with both hands and fell to the ground and caught it,” said Wall, who said he will be visiting Kennesaw State on Saturday to check out the football program.
Savannah Christian coach Baker Woodward said Wall has basically been starting for the team in some capacity since his freshman season.
“He may be a little bit smaller but he has elite ball skills,” Woodward said. “He can be a slasher. He can be a running back. He can be slot, a wide receiver. It’s a really tough matchup on people. We hope and pray he does get a scholarship offer one day. He’s always made plays.”
Smalls also was a known quantity for Savannah Christian after a huge sophomore campaign, and Woodward said the offense is built around the power back. The Raiders (3-1, 1-0 Region 3-3A) pounded away at the Hornets’ defense with Smalls gashing through holes, or creating his own to get past would-be tacklers.
Smalls finished with 168 yards on 18 carries -- none more memorable than his 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter when he kept his legs churning and broke several tackles to get to the end zone.
“We’re glad in the second half he kind of took over as Country Day got a little bit tired,” said Woodward, noting the touchdown and another 25-yard run in the fourth quarter. “I’d like to see the film on his last two runs, how many tackles he broke.”
The SCPS offense put points on the board, and the defense allowed none in a rivalry in which the home team had won every game from 2015-22. That alternating between the Savannah schools ended Friday for the visiting Raiders.
“Our guys responded,” said Woodward, whose squad was coming off a road loss to a ranked Class 6A team in Marist, followed by a bye week. “They were very motivated. The preparation was really good the last two weeks. Very proud of our guys. Very proud of that defense. Always great to get a shutout, and a shutout against Country Day is really good.”
The Hornets (2-2, 0-1 region) also had lost in their previous game, 19-17 to Aquinas in a game they thought they should have won, followed by a bye week. Taking on the Class 3A No. 5 Raiders was going to take a great effort and very few mental and physical errors, coach John Mohring said afterward.
“When you’re going against a caliber of team like that, you can’t make mistakes and you’ve got to involve everybody,” he said. “You can’t just throw to one guy. They’re too good for that.
“We tried to spread it out. We missed some opportunities. You get behind against a team like that and it’s nearly impossible. Now you’re playing catch-up against a really, really talented defense. It’s not a position I ever want to be in.”
Hornets quarterback Barton Nixon showed his toughness with runs at the defensive line, which Mohring said is a challenge as run stoppers as well as its pass rush.
“We knew we couldn’t really go east and west,” Mohring said of attempting plays to the outside. “We had to be selective with what we did. We changed a lot. The offense we run, with that D-line it’s hard to get going, so we had to come up with new schemes to get our guys in space more. So a lot of that’s on me, maybe trying to do too much different from our scheme to compete with them.”
The Country Day offense didn’t sustain drives and attempted one field goal, which missed. The SCPS defense contained a talented group of receivers, with Jamari McIvory, Noah Stone and Wall picking off passes.
Mohring said the Hornets can’t play this sloppy and must take advantage of opportunities. The good news is they’re only one game into their region schedule and have the postseason to play for.
“(Savannah Christian is) a good team,” he said. “That’s why they’re ranked top 10 in the state. That’s where we strive to get to. We’ve just got some work to do.”
SAVANNAH CHRISTIAN 35, SAVANNAH COUNTRY DAY 0
SCPS | 6 | 20 | 6 | 3 | -- 35
SCD | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0 | -- 0
SCPS – Kenry Wall 8 run (kick failed)
SCPS – Wall 24 pass from Blaise Thomas (Ethan Byrd kick)
SCPS – David Bucey 49 pass from Thomas (Byrd kick)
SCPS – Thomas 3 run (kick failed)
SCPS – Zo Smalls 25 run (kick blocked)
SCPS – Byrd 27 FG
Records—SCPS 3-1, 1-0 Region 3-3A; SCD 2-2, 0-1 region.
Week 5 - Sept. 15, 2023
GHSA Class 7A/4A Non-Region
Richmond Hill 28, New Hampstead 26
GHSA Class 5A Non-Region
Carrollton 47, Jenkins 14
GHSA Class 6A/4A Non-Region
Brunswick 63, Islands 0
GHSA 4A/3A Non-Region
Benedictine 35, Hebron Christian 10
GHSA Class 3A REGION
Savannah Christian 35, Savannah Country Day 0
Calvary Day 57, Liberty County 7
Johnson 20, Beach 9
Long County 52, Groves 20
Cross Creek 28, Savannah High 0
GHSA Class A Non-Region
Bryan County 22, Portal 14
Colleton Prep 3, Memorial Day 0
Bethesda 53, Cross Episcopal 0
PHOTO CREDIT: Prep Sports Report Staff
Optim Orthopedics supports Prep Sports and the following schools: Benedictine Military School, Bradwell Institute, Calvary Day School, Liberty County High School, Richmond Hill High School, Savannah Country Day, South Effingham High School, and St. Vincent's athletics. Benedictine Military School, Bradwell Institue, and Liberty County's team doctor is Dr. David Sedory. Dr. David Palmer is the team doctor for Calvary Day School, South Effingham, and Richmond Hill. Savannah Country Day and St. Vincent's team doctor is Dr. Thomas Alexander. Remember, Optim Orthopedics gets you back into the game.