E.A. Sports Today

Donoho clinches region title

Updates with photos
Falcons take out Ragland in battle of top five teams; clinch first title since 2006

Donoho's Justin Foster (25) looks to turn the corner against Ragland. Foster scored four touchdowns in the Falcons' 27-8 victory. (Photos by Paige Faulkner)

Donoho’s Justin Foster (25) looks to turn the corner against Ragland. Foster scored four touchdowns in the Falcons’ 27-8 victory. (Photos by Paige Faulkner)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

RAGLAND – The Donoho football team reached a milestone Friday night it last achieved when most of the current players were still in grade school.

It had been eight years since the Falcons won a region football championship. Cause for wild celebration, you would think.

Nothing perhaps on the order of the San Francisco Giants pouring out of the dugout to celebrate their National League pennant Thursday night, but something at least to acknowledge the significance of the moment.

Alas, after the fifth-ranked Falcons knocked off No. 4 Ragland 27-8 at Joan Ford Stadium to clinch the Class 1A Region 5 crown, the celebration was muted at best.

The only thing close to demonstrative was the exuberant chant senior Justin Foster led his team in when they huddled on the field after the game. Even when the players were asked the location of the emotion, the question was met with a straight face.

“I think we’re all excited, but coach always tells us to be disciplined and focused,” linebacker Sam Garner said. “This is big for us, but we have big goals. The state championship is one of them.”

“We’re excited, but it’s only region champs, we’ve got our whole rest of the season left,” linebacker Parker Morgan added. “There’s no reason to get excited for one game. This game is just like the others. Besides, you can only do so much. It’s high school — you can’t tear down the goal posts. You can storm the field, but it’s not as big as in college.”

The game was played with all the intensity of a championship game and it was tight throughout — until Ben Myrick sealed it with 55-yard run on a fake punt. Once the Falcons (8-0, 6-0) had the lead, the put it in ball-control mode, and that meant putting the game on the shoulders of Foster.

The Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game selection responded by rushing for 164 yards and all four Donoho touchdowns. He had 17 of his 22 carries and 122 of his yards in the second half. He scored on runs of 19, 34, 5 and 9 yards, the last two coming in the fourth quarter.

“It just wasn’t on my shoulders, it was the team’s shoulders,” Foster said. “We had 10 other players out there on the field doing work and we were able to get the job done. I felt like I did my job just like everybody else did. I knew I wasn’t running as well at first, but I knew I had to suck it up, just like the rest of the team sucked it up, and we pushed it into the end zone.”

The Falcons’ defense did their part, too. They held the Ragland to 66 yards of total offense, a mere 18 in the second half. Garner had 12 tackles and forced a fumble, Morgan had 11 and Mitchell Baker had eight. Dalten Martin and Ben Myrick each had interceptions. Foster and Axis Heathcock both recovered fumbles.

The Purple Devils were playing without Christian Morrow, who was dismissed from the team during the week, but bruising fullback Triston Turner was a load to bring down when the game was tight. Turner had 31 rushing yards in Ragland’s only touchdown drive, but only eight in the second half.

“We just had to adjust how we were tackling him,” Morgan said. “He’s different from the other running backs they have. All their running backs are good, but he’s just a different kind of person. We were hitting him too high. We weren’t doing what we’re supposed to do, like we’ve done all season.”

What the Falcons have done all season has paved the way for their sixth region football title in school history. The 2006 team that won their last region crown made it all the way to the third round of the state playoffs.

“It feels good,” Falcons coach Shannon Felder said trying to compare the feelings. “That’s all I can remember.”

[table id=3 /]

Donoho 0 7 7 13 — 27
Ragland 0 8 0 0 — 8

D — Justin Foster 19 run (Mitchell Baker kick)
R — Jeffery McClendon 4 pass from Stoney Merritt (Braxton Thomas pass from Christopher Burnham)
D — Foster 34 run (Baker kick)
D — Foster 5 run (Baker kick)
D — Foster 9 run (kick failed)

Sam Garner (6) led a stout Donoho defense that held Ragland to fewer than 100 yards.

Sam Garner (6) led a stout Donoho defense that held Ragland to fewer than 100 yards.

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