A dominant victory

Atlanta rolls past Mustangs to end home skid

News Photo by James Andersen Atlanta's Aaron Cuzzort, left, attempts to get past Grand Traverse Academy's Justin Weeks during the first half of an eight-man football game at Atlanta High School on Friday.

ATLANTA–It’s been a long time since the Atlanta football team has felt the euphoria of winning at home.

After more than three years, the Huskies got to feel that feeling again on Friday.

Aaron Cuzzort threw for a touchdown, ran for a touchdown and returned an interception for a touchdown as the Huskies rolled to a 62-8 victory over Grand Traverse Academy at Atlanta High School in their 2017 home opener.

The game was called at halftime due to lightning delays and a lack of adequate lighting for the second half.

Cuzzort was one of seven different Huskies to find the endzone on Friday as Atlanta (3-2) scored 50 points in a game for the first time since 2013. The win also gives Atlanta three victories in a season for the first time since 2013.

The win was also Atlanta’s first home victory since September 2014.

“Glad to see the guys finally come together and execute (on) both sides of the ball. We played a good game,” Atlanta coach Troy Cheedie said. “(Playing well on defense), that was something we talked about all week, we haven’t done that yet this year and we were hoping to get some defensive touchdowns.”

Atlanta scored on six different offensive drives in the first half, often on short drives and forced four turnovers, returning three of them for touchdowns.

Kody Reeves returned a blocked punt for a score and Cuzzort and Ethan Byrne each returned an interception for a touchdown.

Reece Wood caught two touchdown passes and Cuzzort, Hunter Reeves, Austin Corbin and Dallas Robertson each ran for a touchdown.

Atlanta flexed its muscle on both sides of the ball, outgaining the Mustangs 332-42 and limited Grand Traverse to just two first downs.

The Mustangs’ only touchdown came with 2:50 left when Hayden Kniss returned a kickoff 68 yards for a score.

Friday’s win is the latest shot in the arm for the Huskies, who are finally getting to showcase some of their talent and be competitive in their first year of eight-man football after several years of on-field struggles.

“The guys were excited about going to eight man. It created competition for positions and guys are working harder to earn those sports,” Cheedie said. “It’s been a good move for us and I think it showed tonight.”

Corbin started the scoring for the Huskies, finding the end zone on a 17-yard keeper on Atlanta’s first drive and Deven Davis ran in the conversion to put Atlanta up 8-0 with 9:13 left in the opening quarter.

From there the floodgates opened. Corbin found Wood for a 77-yard touchdown on Atlanta’s next drive and Robertson scampered 37 yards to paydirt with 3:22 left in the quarter, giving Atlanta a 22-0 lead after Wood ran in the conversion.

The Mustangs were forced into three-and-out situations early and often and eventually Atlanta took advantage. On the Mustangs’ third drive, Atlanta blocked a punt and Kody Reeves returned it 28 yards for the score. After another punt, Hunter Reeves needed just one play to go 17 yards for a touchdown and Corbin added a conversion to put Atlanta ahead 38-0 early in the second quarter.

Atlanta’s defense was just getting started as Robertson recovered a fumble on Grand Traverse’s next drive. With 7:57 to play in the half, Byrne stepped in front of a ball and returned it 43 yards for Atlanta’s second defensive touchdown and a 44-0 lead.

From there it was Cuzzort’s turn to take over. In the final eight minutes, Cuzzort was a force for the Huskies and single-handedly found the end zone three times. He needed one play to run 35 yards for a touchdown and threw a 52-yard touchdown strike to Wood on Atlanta’s next drive. With just a few minutes left, Cuzzort came up big again, intercepting a pass and returning it 50 yards for Atlanta’s final touchdown.

“He’s a good athlete,” Cheedie said of Cuzzort. “He’s a freshman and the next couple years we’re looking forward to him coming up and taking over the team after (senior quarterback) Austin Corbin’s gone.”

Cuzzort had 38 yards on three carries and was 2-of-3 through the air for 58 yards. Corbin was 1-of-4 passing for 87 yards and a touchdown. Wood had three catches for 140 yards.

Robertson led Atlanta’s rushing attack with 69 yards on five carries and Wood added 26 on four.

Mustangs quarterback Josh Bellanger was 1-of-6 passing for 11 yards and two interceptions. He also led Grand Traverse on the ground with 24 yards on nine carries.

With games against Central Lake and Onekama coming up, Cheedie is hopeful the Huskies are hitting their stride at the right time.

“They’re great for the team. We have a couple tough games coming up in Onekama and Central Lake, but the morale is high right now and hopefully this will keep it up there,” Cheedie said.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.