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Caleb Turrentine / Tallapoosa Publishers Benjamin Russell’s Elijah Spivey (4) hurdles a defender.

Friday’s matchup between Benjamin Russell and Stanhope Elmore looked a bit different than it has in years past. Running games have been the key to success in this rivalry but this year’s battle was dominated by Stanhope Elmore’s passing attack as first-year quarterback Trey Killingsworth had a career night.

The Mustangs (2-1, 1-0 Class 6A Region 3) saw Killingsworth throw four touchdown passes to three different receivers and rack up 257 yards through the air, leading them to a 41-9 victory over the Wildcats.

“Trey is a difference maker,” Stanhope Elmore coach Brian Bradford said. “He is a tremendous leader and a great kid with a lot of talent. I’m so glad to see him have a night like tonight because he needed it. He’s doing an outstanding job.”

Killingsworth connected with five different receivers and all of them recorded a catch of at least 15 yards. DJ McGhee became the home run threat, scoring twice on 60-plus-yard receptions, while Chase Eddings and Jackson Thomas each added touchdown catches of their own.

The offense was more than just Killingsworth though as the Mustangs also racked up 123 rushing yards with Teddy Harris and Amahji Truss finding the end zone on the ground.

“It was good to put a whole game together on offense,” Bradford said. “We got those jitters out and we were able to relax and play. We got our playmakers the ball and let them do their thing. I knew they could do it and they knew they could do it.”

Benjamin Russell (0-3, 0-1) appeared to be the biggest offensive powerhouse on the field after the first few plays, traveling inside the Mustangs’ 30 on the game’s opening drive. However, a forced pass on third down was intercepted by Jaqori Williams, swinging the momentum in Stanhope Elmore’s favor and it never let go.

“He’s been playing great for us for a couple of years now and that interception was good,” Bradford said. “They started off well with a different look than we expected. It took us a minute to get dialed in so it was big for him to get that interception. It was a big play for us.”

The Wildcats needed a different look on offense to find a way to replace injured quarterback Carter Smith. They turned to starting wide receiver Elijah Spivey and he showed off his athletic ability, leading the team with 68 rushing yards while throwing for 55 yards and touchdown.

Unfortunately, the injury bug bit once again as Marcus Freeman appeared to be seriously injured after being sandwiched between two tacklers. He was stretchered off the field and was transported to the hospital according to BRHS coach Kevin Smith.

“Our biggest worry is with Marcus right now and we just hope he’s okay,” Smith said. “Nobody quit. That’s not in us. But we feel like we have to get a break at some point. That’s four starters in three weeks. It feels like a never-ending wheel right now.”

Benjamin Russell struggled to get much going after that. The lone touchdown of the night came on a 13-yard pass from Spivey to Lajairus Cox just before halftime.

“Elijah did a really good job,” Smith said. “When we lost Freeman, we had to start putting together the puzzle. That was a package made for Elijah so we had to change some things up. That pass on the touchdown, we had never done before.”

The score did not translate any momentum into the second half though and Stanhope Elmore struck within the first two minutes to put away any thoughts of a comeback.

“Defensively, we can’t let people just run through us,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter what we do on one side of the ball if we’re not doing that.”

Stanhope Elmore’s defense allowed just 201 yards of total offense and recorded 12 tackles for a loss as a team with Martin Toby leading the way with three.

“They locked in and played their game,” Bradford said. “They were dialed in and had a great week of practice. They executed really well.”

Despite already having a one in the win column before the game due to a forfeit in the season opener, Stanhope Elmore got its first victory on the field and Bradford admitted it was a relief to get that pressure off the players’ backs.

“We knew we played well in those games and we were close but those were just moral victories,” Bradford said. “All that really matters is in the win-loss column.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.