ATLANTA—McEachern started the Franklin Stephens era off with a convincing win over Brookwood, 48-10, in the penultimate game of the Metro by T-Mobile Corky Kell Classic at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Indians held a 20-0 lead at halftime and controlled the game throughout, getting an extremely efficient performance from junior quarterback Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, who was 15-of-18 passing for 251 yards and two touchdowns to go with 57 yards rushing on eight carries. McEachern’s defense was also dominant for much of the game, notching five tackles for loss and holding Brookwood to 40 yards rushing on 28 attempts.
Stephens, who takes over the Indians program after Kyle Hockman’s move to New Hampstead, had not yet participated in the Corky Kell as a head coach but had coached as an assistant with Camden County. Nerves, he said, weren’t a factor in his first game as head coach of the historic Cobb County program.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Stephens said. “I was more excited about our guys playing out there. You know, since late March, I was thinking about all those days of practice. Football is different, you get a lot of practice in for one opportunity. I just wanted those guys to be at their best for their one opportunity today.”
McEachern, ranked No. 6 in the Score Atlanta Week 1 Top 10 for Class AAAAAAA, came out dominant. The Indians scored first with a 33-yard touchdown drive capped by a 2-yard rushing score by Christian Mason. The Indians took advantage of the short field after a Jaedon Coleman interception of Brookwood quarterback Dylan Lonergan. Mason helped set up his touchdown with a 23-yard rush to the 4-yard line.
After forcing a Brookwood punt on the Broncos’ next possession, McEachern got a big play to set up an eight-play, 83-yard scoring drive on a couple of long strikes from Del Rio-Wilson. The Indians QB found star senior receiver Javon Baker for a 33-yard gain on a third-and-4 down to the Brookwood 45 and Jordan Simmons for 24 yards to the 10 three plays later. Then on second-and-goal from the 8, Del Rio-Wilson dropped back, bought time by rolling to his right, and hit Gary Simpson all alone in the end zone for the Indians’ second score. A missed PAT kept the score 13-0 at the 11:07 mark of the second quarter.
Brookwood mounted a 10-play drive in response and reached the McEachern 13 before consecutive incompletions caused the possession to stall. But the Broncos remained scoreless after missing a 30-yard field-goal attempt. The Broncos reached McEachern’s red zone on the strength of Lonergan’s 38-yard completion to Conley Davis to the 14.
The teams traded punts before McEachern embarked on a clock-killing drive to end the first half. The Indians took over at their own 8-yard line with 3:33 remaining in the second quarter and scored on another wide-open 8-yard touchdown completion from Del Rio-Wilson to Baker with 24 seconds left to give them a 20-0 lead at halftime. Baker caught five passes and finished with a game-high 142 yards receiving to go with his two touchdowns.
Brookwood gambled to start the second half, popping up the kickoff short and covering the ball at McEachern’s 32 to take possession. The Broncos hit a big third-and-12 pass play from Lonergan to Davis for 29 yards down to the McEachern 5, then Tyler Knight carried a pile into the end zone to make it 20-7 McEachern.
But McEachern would march down the field and regain control of the game. The Indians’ second eight-play, 83-yard scoring drive culminated in a 2-yard Simmons rush, set up by a 26-yard completion from Del Rio-Wilson to Dacari Collins to the Brookwood 5. Backup QBs combined for a two-point conversion as Bryce Archie hit Kris Benson for a scoring pass to make it 28-8 McEachern.
“Everything is not going to go the way you want it week in and week out, and it was one of those opportunities for our guys to learn about themselves and find out about themselves,” Stephens said of his team’s response to Brookwood’s kickoff recovery and first touchdown. “It was not a time to panic, although Brookwood knocked it in on us and that was unfortunate that we allowed that to happen. But as far as the way our guys got back in control of the game, and methodically went down the field and got back control of the game, you’re going to have to do that.”
Del Rio-Wilson had first-down rushes of 11 and 14 yards in orchestrating a drive that showcased McEachern’s toughness and offensive playmaking ability.
“We challenged them at halftime, for those guys to get open and complete the ball and I think we figured out we have some weapons on the outside, we have some weapons in the backfield and then we have Carlos, who’s a big running back,” Stephens said. “He’s running the football as a 200-something-pound kid, running the football along with all the other guys we got. It’s our job as coaches to figure out how to put it all together week in and week out. And if the good Lord will bless us with health, we have a chance to be pretty good.
Jake Cartmill added a 28-yard field goal with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter to keep Brookwood within three scores, but McEachern struck quickly on the next possession with a three-play touchdown drive. Del Rio-Wilson hit Baker on an impressive 46-yard catch and run to the Broncos 9, then Mason rushed for a 9-yard score to give the Indians a 34-10 advantage just 1:02 after Brookwood’s field goal.
A Brookwood fumble deep in its own territory led to another quick McEachern score, this time on a 2-yard rush from Sutton Smith, to make it 41-10 with 2:51 left in the third.
McEachern tacked on its final touchdown in the fourth quarter when Caleb Brown caught a 36-yard pass from Benson with 1:10 remaining.
Mason led McEachern with 59 yards on eight attempts to go with two touchdowns. Brookwood’s Eli Kohl rushed for a game-high 63 yards on 19 carries, and Davis led the Broncos with 105 yards receiving.