E.A. Sports Today

Tight quarters

Anniston wins defensive slugfest, scores only touchdown in second quarter, turns back White Plains in final 20 seconds

The White Plains offense looks over the sideline for instruction on the next play. On the cover, Anniston quarterback Tyree Carmichael gets a play started. (Photos by B.J. Franklin)

By John Mitchell
For East Alabama Sports Today

Anniston came in expecting a fight. What the Bulldogs got was more akin to a bareknuckle brawl – four quarters of smash-mouth, in-your-face, draw-a-line-in-the-dirt defensive football with each team treating the 50-yard-line as if it were the goal line.

The Anniston sideline couldn’t exhale until the Bulldogs defense made one final stop with less than 20 seconds to play in the red zone, blowing up a fourth-down attempt by White Plains quarterback Jaden Chatman to finally seal a 7-0 victory.

White Plains’ defense was aggressive all evening, and it was ultimately that aggressiveness that cost them, when Anniston quarterback Tyree Carmichael found Mondrecko Thompson for a 23-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter that would prove to be the game’s decisive – and only – score.

Anniston head coach Rico White picked up on something in studying film that led to the touchdown, a perfectly executed wheel route down the sideline.

“They’re an aggressive team,” said White. “We caught them slipping back side. We set it up and the quarterback made a great throw.”

For Carmichael, the lone bright spot on Anniston’s offense accounting for 126 of the team’s 183 yards, it took some calming down from his head coach after a shaky start to make what would ultimately be the game-winning score.

“He said just sit in the pocket and make the throw because most of my passes I was throwing too far,” Carmichael said. “He just said calm down, son, and make the throw.”

White delivered the advice to his quarterback seconds before Carmichael made the throw to a wide-open Thompson, catching the White Plains defense in a blitz that didn’t account for the receiver slipping out down the sideline.

With the offense struggling, it was up to Anniston’s defense to make plays and keep White Plains out of the end zone for the entirety of the evening. Thanks in large part to defensive tackle John Foster, the Bulldogs were able to do just that.

Foster led the defense with 11 tackles, 4 for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Anniston made two critical stops in the game – stopping White Plains on goal-to-go situations right before halftime and late in the fourth quarter – to preserve the win.

Foster credited strong preparation from his coaches and teammates for how he lived in the Wildcats backfield all night.
“My teammate, he read film and I read film and he told me wherever No. 74 (Tanner Kughn) is at, that’s where the ball is going,” said Foster. “That’s why I just penetrated and glued my eyes to the backfield and seek to the ball.”

At just 5-5 and 160 pounds, Foster is often overlooked due to his size relative to the position he plays. He’s not the big, imposing defensive tackle you normally see manning the middle of defenses, but his head coach knows the secret to his success.

“He’s the smallest guy here, but the heart he’s got though … you can’t beat heart”, White said.

Foster anchored the middle of a defense that held White Plains to just 184 total yards, and only 74 yards after halftime. The Bulldogs collectively swarmed to the ball, accounting for eight tackles-for-loss, and two sacks. They made play-after-play, constantly coming up big in tight spots.

Along with the two goal-line stands to bookend the halves, the Bulldog defense came up with a crucial interception by senior defensive back Damecus Thomas in Anniston territory just two plays after their offense coughed up a fumble.

The loss for White Plains was another bitter pill. They’ve now lost three consecutive region games by a combined margin of 19 points. The loss officially eliminates them from playoff contention.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak and moved Anniston to 3-4 overall, 3-2 in the region. It was a must-win for the Bulldogs’ playoff aspirations, and after Oneonta’s gut-wrenching defeat to Jacksonville, the Bulldogs are now tied for third place. One win in their final two region games would clinch a playoff berth for them for the first time in three years.

“We’re going in the right direction,” said White. “We’re young mentally, so we’re getting there and this win tonight was big.”

Anniston 7, White Plains 0
Team stats Ann WP

First downs 8 11
Rushes-yds 27-154 44-172
Passes 6-13-0 3-8-1
Passing yds 29 12
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Punts-avg 6-32.0 6-35.2
Penalties-yds 8-45 2-10

Scoring summary
Anniston 0 7 0 0 – 7
White Plains 0 0 0 0 – 0

A – Mondrecko Thompson 23 pass from Tyree Carmichael (Kevin Escareno kick), 3:34 2Q

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