E.A. Sports Today

Happy Trails

Donoho falls behind for first time this season, responds to set up region showdown next week

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

A strange sensation lingered over the Donoho sideline in the first half Friday night, and it had nothing to do with the heavy smoke wafting over the field from Rob Svensen’s pre-game fireworks show. The way the Falcons responded to it could have a profound effect on the rest of their season.

For the first time this season the Falcons were behind in a game – not just once, but twice. Yet they responded like a contender and pulled away to beat Wadley 27-14 and keep alive their Class 1A Region 5 championship showdown next week at No. 4 Ragland.

“We had a tough test,” Falcons quarterback Chandler Collins said. “A bunch of people have been saying about us that we haven’t been facing anybody. I’m not sure how true that is, but we came in with a chip on our shoulder (for) people thinking we’re not as highly ranked as we should be or we’re not as good as we should be, so this was our first big test.

“This showed us we do stick together when it gets tough.”

The fifth-ranked Falcons (7-0, 5-0) trailed 7-0 after seven minutes and 14-7 late in the first half on two 1-yard touchdown runs by Kamaury Avery, a bruiser of a running back Donoho junior lineman Reaves Nelson compared to a bulldozer. Coming into the game the Falcons had given up only six points all season, and those came on a trick play last week when they had that game well in hand.

But even though they were behind there was no cause for panic.

“We didn’t act any different,” Falcons coach Shannon Felder said. “In the spring game when we played them we were behind – they scored first – and there were a lot of similarities between this game and that one.

“We knew it was going to be a fight to the end. We were tied at halftime and we talked about that being the first time we were tied and now we had to be able to reach down a little bit deeper, focus a little bit more and come out and play a little bit harder and I thought we did that the second half.”

The Falcons gained that tie 26.4 seconds before halftime on Collins’ 17-yard touchdown pass to Justin Foster and Mitchell Baker’s extra point. They finally took the lead in the third quarter on Collins’ 65-yard tour through the Wadley defense one play after his lost fumble was negated by a defensive penalty.

Collins finished the game with 198 yards rushing and 75 yards passing. He also had an 18-yard run for the Falcons’ first touchdown and Foster had a25-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

“I was more angry with myself than anything,” Collins said of his fumble. “We knew we had to come out and get it done — and we did.”

Once with the Falcons grabbed the lead, they put the game in the hands of their defense and it responded in typical fashion.

They denied Wadley on four downs inside the 10 early in the fourth quarter, then applied heavy pressure later that resulted in an interception by Baker that effectively ended the comeback bid.

Right before the pick, Nelson pressured Wadley quarterback Connor Fordham into a 13-yard loss and intentional grounding penalty. On their last defensive snap of the game, Jake Kaplan sacked Fordham for a 10-yard loss.

“I think once we realized the implications of the game we just all got really fired up and were all going harder,” Nelson said.

Yardstick Wad Don
First downs 11 16
Rushes-yds 43-210 35-268
C-A-I 1-9-1 3-12-2
Passing yds 11 75
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-0
Punts-avg 5-37.6 4-22.3
Penalties-yds 6-50 15-86

Wadley 7 7 0 0 — 14
Donoho 0 14 7 6 — 27

W – Kamaury Avery 1 run (Coby Nunn kick)
D – Chandler Collins 18 run (Mitchell Baker kick)
W – Avery 1 run (Nunn kick)
D – Justin Foster 17 pass from Collins (Baker kick)
D – Collins 65 run (Baker kick)
W – Foster 35 run (kick blocked)

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