E.A. Sports Today

Friday roundup

Short kick gets Spring Garden off to good start against Donoho; Weaver, Talladega, Randolph County games included

Weaver’s London Knight (2) grabs a pass in front of Locust Fork’s Aaron Ray during Friday night’s game. On the cover, Donoho coach Mark Sanders. (Weaver photo by Greg Warren/cover photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Roy Mitchell
For East Alabama Sports Today

SPRING GARDEN – There wasn’t much kick in the opening kickoff, but it hurt Donoho just the same.

Spring Garden’s squib barely made it past the first row of the Falcons’ return team. But after it darted sideways past a Donoho upback’s outstretched hands, Michael Floyd crashed the play and pounced on the loose ball giving the Panthers their first big play of the game.

The Panthers would score with the short field and never looked back in a 34-14 Homecoming victory.

“We’re awful emotional,” Falcons coach Mark Sanders said. “Our guy missed the ball. They recovered it. We have to learn how to not start hanging our heads. We have to just keep going.”

Though only 30 yards away from the end zone, scoring on Donoho’s lean, quick defensive front wasn’t a given. The Panthers (4-1) had to convert two third-down snaps on the eight-play scoring drive.

On second-and-goal, the Panthers rushed quickly out of the huddle, snapping on a quick count. They caught the Falcons defense a step slow in the shift to the strong side and Luke Welsh walked into the end zone from four yards out. Colby Slayton tacked on the extra point and Spring Garden led 7-0 with 8:09 left in the first quarter.

Defenses dominated the next seven possessions, recording only one first down apiece during the stretch. It took a couple turnovers to prompt the next scores.

Two plays after an interception Luke Ivey lobbed a high pass toward the goal line that Dylan Rogers went up for and got to make it 14-0 with 527 left in the half.

After a failed Donoho possession, Spring Garden again drove deep into Falcon territory. Will Nelson, however, recovered a Panther fumble to set up Donoho’s most successful drive of the half.

On the second play of the drive, Hall Billings took off past left end with the option. He started to rush around left end, but changed his mind, reversing his field and dodging defenders. As he broke into the clear, he connected with Nelson for a big gain. It was the first time the Falcons had made it past the Spring Garden 49 the entire half.

The next play, the Falcons slipped pocket passer Seth Ford into the game, and he heaved the ball up the left side. Rod Elston diverted his route, coming back to the ball and losing his defender in the process. The 56-yard catch and Ridge Hopkins’ extra point cut the Spring Garden lead to 14-7 with 1:00 left in the half.

“They do the RPO stuff (run-pass option),” Spring Garden coach Jason Howard said. “That’s the first time we’ve seen the RPO this year.”

Earlier in the game, many Spring Garden offensive plays were from the shotgun formation and often the Donoho defenders had penetrated into the backfield before the Panthers’ backs ever got going.

In the second half, Howard moved Ivey under center, allowing backs to have a running start before the hand-off. For 14 straight plays, the Panthers force-fed the Falcons three different backs, all with a full head of steam.

On the 15th play of the drive, Ivey faked the handoff and found Welsh wide open on a 3-yard touchdown reception. Slayton’s PAT stretched the Panther lead to 21-7 with 5:39 left in the 3rd quarter.

“We said at halftime that we needed to quit beating ourselves,” Howard said. “We made the challenge of everyone doing their job and cutting out negative plays and turnovers.”

Donoho had only one more score left in them for the game. It came on their next drive. Billings scampered two yards around right end, stretching the ball over the pylon for the touchdown, making it 21-14 with 1:40 left in the third.

Spring Garden answered on its next possession against a tired Falcon front. Weston Kirk’s 5-yard run out of the Wildcat capped a five-play scoring drive that put the Panthers up 27-14 with 11:53 left. Kirk finished with 137 yards on 16 carries.

Andrew Floyd scored the Panthers’ final touchdown on a 1-yard run with less than a minute to play.

Donoho failed on their last three drives, one by downs, the other two by Slayton and Dylan Gowens interceptions.

Roy Mitchell is a sports correspondent for the Cherokee County Herald

Donoho 0 7 7 0 — 14
Spring Garden 7 7 7 13 — 34

SG – Luke Welsh 4 run (Colby Slayton kick), 8:09 1Q
SG – Dylan Rogers 26 pass from Luke Ivey (Colby Slayton kick), 5:27 2Q
D – Rod Elston 56 pass from Seth Ford (Ridge Hopkins kick), 1:00 2Q
SG – Luke Welsh 3 run (Colby Slayton kick), 5:39 3Q
D – Hall Billings 2 run (Ridge Hopkins kick), 1:40 3Q
SG – Weston Kirk 4 run (kick failed), 11:53 4Q
SG – Andrew Floyd 1 run (Colby Slayton kick), 0:46 4Q

WEAVER 41, LOCUST FORK 21: The Bearcats (4-1) used their speed and big plays to get back on the winning track. London Knight broke off a 91-yard touchdown run, Shamar Spinks had touchdown runs of 60 and 24 yards and quarterback Dalton Hamby threw three touchdown passes of 25 yards or more.

Knight finished with 114 yards rushing on five carries. Spinks had 102 yards on five carries. The Bearcats rushed for 267 yards as a team. Hamby completed four of five passes for 128 yards and scoring strikes of 25, 41 (to Knight) and 50 yards.

TALLADEGA 41, WELLBORN 30: The Tigers (4-2) won their fourth game for the first time since 1995 with a season-high 41 points. It’s also the most points they’ve scored in a game since beating Shelby County 42-35 in 2013. The Tigers have scored 37 points or more in three of their last four games.

RANDOLPH COUNTY 49, WOODLAND 0: Trent Lane rushed for 107 yards on 10 carries, Aaron Knight had 86 yards on four carries and both scored two touchdowns as the Tigers won for the 48th time in the rivalry and fifth year in a row.

E.J. Clark also scored a pair of touchdowns on a 59-yard pass from Brody Wortham – their only pass of the game – and a 39-yard interception return. The pick-six was Randolph County’s third of the season.

The Tigers (4-1) rolled up 415 yards of offense, 356 of it on the ground. They scored on all six of their possessions in the first half and then cleared the bench. Jai Wright scored on a 5-yard run in the second half after being set up by a 68-yard burst by Antonio Morgan.

The Bobcats (0-5) hoped to avoid being shutout in the series for the second year in a row when they attempted a 38-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, but the kick was partially blocked. The shutout was Randolph County’s second of the year.

Randolph County’s Trent Lane (1) burrows his way into the end zone for the first of his two touchdowns against Woodland Friday night. (Photo by Jeremy Wortham/TigerDen Media)

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