Gators Punch Ticket to State Playoffs with Win over New Hampstead

Gators Punch Ticket to State Playoffs with Win over New Hampstead

Congratulations to the Mighty Gators as they punched their ticket to the GHSA State Playoffs for the 16th consecutive time by defeating New Hampstead in the regular season finale' last Friday night 33-14. The Gators will host the Harris County Tigers Friday night in the Swamp. Advance General Admission tickets are set by the GHSA in the first round at $8 and can be purchased at the high school ticket office beginning Tuesday morning at 8:00 am. Current reserved seat ticket patrons can purchase their same reserved seat tickets for $15 Tuesday and Wednesday. All unsold reserved seat tickets will be released to the general public beginning Thursday morning. Advance tickets can also be purchased online at


Click here for ONLINE General Admission Playoff Tickets: Ware County vs. Harris County



Ware vs. New Hampstead article compliments of the WJH. Thank you!


By JOHN SCOTT COOPER Staff Writer The Ware County High Gators needed a victory Friday to seal up a home game for the first round of the state playoffs next week — and they got a 33-14 win over New Hampstead High (5-4, 2-2).

The Gators (4-5 overall record, 3-1 in Region 2-AAAAA) are now set to play Harris County, the 3 seed from Region 1- AAAAA. New Hampstead is the No. 3 seed in Region 2 and will play on the road next week. There was little flashy about Ware's play in any of the three phases of the game. The offense was steady, controlling the ball on a few long drives that led to touchdowns and capitalizing on a couple of scores set up by New Hampstead turnovers early in the game.

"We did what we had to do to get a win tonight," said Ware Coach Franklin Stephens. "Somebody may want to look at more flash than we had tonight, but we focused on coming out to do the things we do well, taking a couple of shots when we thought we had them and executing." The Gator defense held the Phoenix — whose second half rise from the ashes was aborted by Ware — to 60 yards on the ground. New Hampstead was noted as a running team. The Gators held New Hampstead to six first downs in the game. "Defensively, we played pretty good, tackled well," Stephens said. "We had the one big turnover right after the half. That kind of changed the momentum of the game right then. I'd have like our senior defense to shut the gate but we did not. But we were able to answer offensively and put another drive together to score." A crucial special teams mistake gave the Phoenix a short field that led to the visitors' first TD. The Gators also failed to convert on two PATs. But senior Victor Steedley punted three times for an average of 38.67 yards to help with field position, and the other two kickoff returns by Ware led to decent field position.

One mental error in the Ware defensive backfield led to touchdown No. 2 by New Hampstead. The visiting team gained 129 yards by passing with a 48-yard chunk of that coming on the first play of the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Jalen de la Fuento tossed a bomb to senior Adarius Smith for a touchdown. "We blow a coverage in the secondary the first play in the fourth quarter, mis-communication, and give them a wide open, easy route," Stephens said. "How that happened? Lack of communication. That sort of thing has plagued us all year long. We just can't seem to shake it for whatever reason. We've just go to be more disciplined, more focused. We have to focus on every play." Stephens was happy his offense came out an put up another touchdown to answer the big play by New Hampstead. A two-yard touchdown run by de la Fuento early in the third quarter was the only other score by the Phoenix. That TD was set up when Ware County senior Devontae Linton fumbled a kickoff and gave the ball to New Hampstead on the Gator 17. The Phoenix ran the ball six times to get into the end zone.

Seniors on the Ware County side had a big night, which was fitting since it was Senior Night. Twentyone Ware senior football players (plus cheerleaders, trainers and band members) were honored before the game. Several Gator senior footballers celebrated in style inside the gridiron. Running back Raja Bradley carried the football 21 times for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Besides his two short TD runs, Bradley's big play was a 52-yard run that set up his second scoring run late in the second quarter. Ernest Jones made his presence known to Phoenix ballcarriers while playing defense. He also caught an Acy Paulk 11-yard touchdown pass for the Gators' second score of the game. Seniors Tyler Taylor and Jordon Turner played stellar football, spelling Bradley at running back. Taylor scored twice on runs of eight and five yards. He had a total of 99 yards on 10 carries. Turner rushed eight times for 42 yards. Senior quarterback Paulk spent most of the evening handing the ball off to his running backs, but he also rushed for 14 tough yards on six carries and completed four passes, one of them the scoring pass to Jones. Two senior offensive tackles, Jaylen Strickland and James Lucas, were part of the line that gave the backs creases — and a few gaping holes — to run through on their way to a whopping total of 319 rushing yards. Bradley, Taylor and Turner kept the ball moving forward, rarely going down on the first tackle or losing yardage. In addition to the long run by Bradley, Taylor had a 43-yard run on Ware's final scoring drive. Most of the the trio's yards came in smaller bites that kept accumulating. The strong rushing attack by Ware also kept New Hampstead's offense off the field for much of the game, grinding out 18 first downs.

The Gator pass defense stepped up to play well except for the breakdown on the long scoring pass that opened the final quarter. Kevin Weatherspoon leaped high to grab an overthrow by de la Fuento at the New Hampstead 49 and return it to the Phoenix 9. That set up the touchdown pass from Paulk to Jones two plays later. And freshman Dream Gainer stepped in front of a Phoenix receiver to intercept de la Fuento with under two minutes left in the game. Ware, then, ran out the clock to seal the victory.

*Note: All photographs compliments of Bo Carter...

Senior Acy Paulk races for a Gator first down....


Kevin Weatherspon picks of Pheonix pass...



Devante Lattimore follows Gators blockers....



Raja Bradley races to the endzon and surpasses 1,000 yards rushing on the season...


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