E.A. Sports Today

Tigers finish

Randolph County finishes the job, pull away from Weaver in the fourth quarter to rejoin top three in region

Weaver running back Shamar Spinks (7) looks for a way around Randolph County’s Vincent Garrett (19) Friday night. (Photos by Jeremy Wortham)

By Jeremy Wortham
For East Alabama Sports Today

WEDOWEE – Randolph County and Weaver entered Friday night’s key Class 3A Region 6 region matchup with some serious implications still on the line despite their mutual sole region loss to Piedmont.

Playoff implications, first-round hosting and remaining in the hunt for a region championship are just some of them.

Randolph County came out of it with some separation, beating Weaver 38-28. The Tigers (5-1, 3-1) moved into a tie for second place with Piedmont, while the Bearcats (4-2, 2-2) dropped into a tie for fourth with Wellborn.

In a league as tough as theirs, it’s all about finishing. The Tigers finished where their opponent couldn’t and now they’re in a better place because of it.

“Tonight we finished,” Randolph County coach Pat Prestridge said. “We talked about finishing tonight. Against Piedmont we didn’t finish. Hadn’t beaten a great team, an outstanding team. Tonight we beat a great team.”

Every time Weaver scored, Randolph County answered and it stayed that way until the fourth quarter.

Atario Hester had a huge night for the Tigers, scoring five touchdowns. He rushed for 162 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries and caught three passes for 37 yards and a score.

“Tonight he did an awesome job, finished the game and it helped us,” Prestridge said. “Aterio finishing the game. I think if he finished the game against (Piedmont) we beat them.”

Weaver took the game’s opening drive and marched 82 yards before quarterback Robert Gaines scored on a 1-yard sneak with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter. Randolph County answered on its first possession, going 44 yards before Hester found room around the left side and scored on a 18-yard run. The Tigers missed the extra point and the Bearcats had a 7-6 lead with 55 seconds left in the quarter.

The teams would spend most of the game refusing to kick the ball deep, leaving each to start near midfield most of the night. The Bearcats took their second possession at the 39 and Shamar Spinks capped it with a 15-yard touchdown run. Gaines’ conversion pass to Emun Young made it 15-6 with 10:27 left in the second quarter.

Randolph County answered again with Hester punching it over from the 2. The Tigers two-point conversion failed and it was 15-12.

With 1:20 to spare until halftime Weaver moved 74 yards down the field with Spinks ultimately faking the run around the edge and throwing a 12-yard dump pass to Jadon Calhoun.

The Tigers went 55 yards the other way and as time expired a 15-yard facemask penalty against the Bearcats defense left the Tigers with one untimed down and 5 yards from the end zone. Demarcus Davis rolled out and found Hester on the end zone to trim Weaver’s lead to 22-18 at the half.

Midway into the third, Gaines fumbled on a 12-yard scramble. The Tigers recovered at the 22 and with an added unsportsmanlike penalty from the Bearcats sideline they set up shot at the 11.

Davis threw his second touchdown of the game, connecting with Donte Jordan on a 5-yard score. Hester converted the two-point try to give the Tigers their first lead of the game 24-22 with 6:37 left in the third. Davis was 7-of-9 passing for 74 yards and two touchdowns.

“Coming into the year we knew he’d be young and inexperienced … and we’d have to manage the game for him a little bit more,” Prestridge said. “But he stepped up his game and got some experience in the first five games and it paid off. He’s an outstanding athlete. We’ve got some things we need to work on, but at the same time for a first-year starter pretty good job.”

Weaver retook the lead on what would be its final scoring drive. Gaines found Caleb Allison on a 25-yard pass to give the Bearcats a 28-26 lead.

Gaines was limited to 17 yards rushing, but he completed 5 of 10 passes for 125 yards. He ran for one score and threw for another. Spinks had 107 yards rushing and he also accounted for touchdowns rushing and passing.

Randolph County took the lead for good midway through the fourth quarter after Weaver bobbled a snap on a punt set it up in the red zone. Hester found the end zone from the 1 to put the Tigers on top 32-28.

The Bearcats were unable to sustain their most important drive of the game and turned it over on downs at midfield. A Weaver penalty on third-and-1 with 2:30 to play moved the chains and set the stage for Hester’s fifth touchdown, a 27-yard run.

“We’ve just got to learn how to win,” Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. “We’ve got to quit shooting ourselves in the foot against good teams. You’re not going to win (doing that).

“I imagine we had over 100 yards in penalties again; you’re not going to win a game like that. When you’re playing a good team like this and you’ve got them on the ropes you’ve got to keep them on the ropes. You can’t let them off with a fourth-and-23 play; that’s unacceptable.”

Randolph County 38, Weaver 28
Team stats Weav RC

First downs 15 14
Rushes-yds 43-160 32-209
Passes 6-11-1 7-9-0
Passing yds 137 74
Fumbles lost 1 0
Penalties-yds 12-100 4-30

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