Arabia Mountain starts region play with blowout win

Arabia Mountain High School’s football team started a five-game stretch against region opponents with a 42-16 win over Lithonia at Hallford Stadium on Sept. 29.

The Arabia Mountain Rams were led by a six-touchdown game from sophomore quarterback Julian Shanks. After scoring the first touchdown on the ground, Shanks threw for 263 yards and scored five additional touchdowns.

Alex Richard, Daniel Ndukwe, Laron Jones, and Jaiden Figaro caught touchdowns. Ndukwe had two touchdown receptions, including a juggling catch at the goal line which he battled away from a defender and secured for a diving touchdown.

“Julian is a young kid with a ton of talent. When he’s locked in, he’s unstoppable. Tonight, he came out and threw the ball how he was supposed to, made great reads, and took care of possessions. He was locked in all week and he performed very well,” said Arabia Mountain head coach Julian Washington.

Julian Shanks (11) threw for five of his six touchdowns. Photos by Jay Phillips

Even with the offensive explosion from Shanks and company, defense was just as important to Arabia Mountain’s blowout win. Sekou Copeland recovered a fumble for Arabia Mountain on the opening possession of the game, as Lithonia was driving down the field. Shanks capitalized by turning the possession into a touchdown. 

“It was huge. We talked all week about communicating and playing hard. It’s a great way to start off region play, and it’s a great birthday gift – which was yesterday,” said Washington. “We also talked about playing together and playing for each other. They closed [Arabia Mountain’s section] of the stadium, so we didn’t have a crowd behind us, and it was still a party on the sideline.”

Shanks then orchestrated two more touchdown drives before Arabia Mountain’s defense made it’s next momentum turning play. The first touchdown was on a drop back pass to Ndukwe, which Ndukwe caught in heavy coverage after the ball was tipped. The second was to Figaro, who broke several tackles on his way to a 52-yard score.

Ndukwe (17) celebrates after his first touchdown reception.

Lithonia answered with a drive that put the Bulldogs inside Arabia Mountain’s 40 with one minute left to play in the first half. Then the Rams recovered a fumble at the Lithonia 41 when Daniel Turpin and Cedric Sellers sacked Lithonia quarterback Amonte Hardin and recovered his fumble to give the Rams the ball back with 51 seconds left.

A few plays later, Shanks found Ndukwe for their second touchdown connection of the night. Ndukwe caught the pass along the sideline and broke a couple of tackles on the way to a 42-yard touchdown, giving Arabia Mountain a 28-0 lead at halftime.

The Rams picked up where they left off to start the third quarter. Shanks threw a 65-yard touchdown to Richard and a 68-yard touchdown to Jones before the midway point of the quarter. 

Lithonia then found success after the Rams went up 42-0. Hardin found Anthony Booker for a 17-yard touchdown for the Bulldogs first score. Then Hardin found Isaiah Byrd for the Bulldogs’ final touchdown following a successful onside kick recovery. Hardin converted both two-point attempts with scrambles. 

Arabia Mountain (3-3) finished the game with 388 yards of offense. While Hardin led Lithonia with 143 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs (0-6). 

Ndukwe finished with two receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Byrd finished with four receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs. 

“We play to our standard, it’ll take us where we need to go,” Washington added about Arabia Mountain’s final four games of the season, which are all against region opponents.

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