It’s been a difficult and disappointing fall for the Oconee County football team, but after five consecutive losses, a celebration was in order last Friday as the Warriors thumped visiting Franklin County 49-33.
Oconee County (2-5, 1-3 in Region 8-AAA) never trailed in the game and scored on seven of its 10 offensive possessions against Franklin County (1-6, 0-4). Key to the Warriors’ offensive success was senior quarterback Connor White, who completed 15 of 24 passes for 172 yards and four touchdowns and had five rushes for 84 yards and another score.
“Connor is real smart,” said Oconee County coach Mitch Olson, whose team will host Jackson County (4-3, 2-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. “He was putting us in good position by running the ball and he was putting us in good position by throwing the ball. He does a lot of reading and changing and making calls, and I think all night he may have made two mistakes, which is phenomenal. He kept everybody calm. We had some new guys in, so he made sure they had all the plays and everything and that was the key.”
A two-year starter who was named one of the Banner-Herald’s preseason Terrific 10, White said he felt the Oconee County offense was able to use balance to turn in its best performance of the season. In many of the Warriors’ games this fall, a reliance on passing was required in an attempt to catch up with an opponent taking an early advantage on the scoreboard.
“We were a lot more balanced on offense,” White said. “We were running it a lot more, and I actually got to run a bit for the first game in a while. I probably had five or six rushes, but I haven’t been running at all — I’ve just been scrambling this year. It was nice to have some designed runs, and we were just a lot more balanced. Our line did a great job — I don’t think (Franklin County) got pressure all night on us, which made things a lot easier on me.”
For the season, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound White has completed 78 of 138 passes for 1,590 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He’s also rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He’s won high praise from Olson for his leadership in what has turned out to be a frustrating season.
“On the field, he’s the coach,” Olson said. “He’s a kid people admire for what he does. He works hard and stays after practice to throw to the receivers a couple of times a week. He puts the time in and leads by example. When he’s on the field, he knows what everybody’s job is and he’ll tell them what to do. He kind of looks like Peyton Manning out there sometimes, and we have to get him to settle down because he’s out there double-checking everybody.”
Olson said that the only drawback to White’s play is his tendency to try to take on too much responsibility when the chips are down.
“I think he’s played great,” said Olson. “The only negative on him has been when we’ve fallen behind, he presses so hard to get us back up and that can lead to a bad decision or two. He’s an unbelievable competitor and he plays hard until the last buzzer. He doesn’t get down — he wants to get on the field and get after it. He wants to play defense, he wants to play offense, everything.
“We give him a lot of leeway in our offense, and I think his only problem has been him trying to do too much. But I do admire him for that because it’s the competitor in him. Every week, he knows the situation and he takes a shot when he should.”
When asked his most memorable play of the game, White pointed to Oconee County’s final offensive drive of the second quarter.
“Our drive at end of the first half was definitely big,” he said. “We scored right at the end of the half to go up 21-12, and then we got the ball at the start of the second half. We got a touchdown with about 25 seconds left before halftime, which was a huge deal. It was a 30-yard seam route to Keenan (Brown), who has been playing really good lately.”
The Warriors will commemorate senior night on Friday, and White said that in the team’s final home game of the season, he’d like nothing better than to depart victorious.
“Billy Seward, one of our captains, and I were talking the other day and we realized it was our last game at home for the rest of our lives,” White said. “It was definitely a shocker and it hit us hard. But it definitely fires us up and we want to go out with a win. It’s been a great four years — it’s been a blast and I hate that it’s coming to an end, but it makes us want to win all the more.”