E.A. Sports Today

Wildcats wake up

Top-ranked Saks, with a little halftime coaxing from its coach, erupts from a balky first half to dump Weaver, stay undefeated

Daveon Dukes (6) was thrust into Saks’ full-time quarterback role Friday night and after a slow start directed the top-ranked Wildcats to a victory. (Photo by Greg Warren)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

WEAVER — After playing what everyone in the Saks dressing room agreed was the worst first half of football the Wildcats played this season, coach Jonathan Miler delivered a wake up call.

It was loud and the players responded.

The top-ranked Wildcats scored 30 unanswered points in the second half and beat Weaver 30-7 to remain undefeated and on top of Class 3A Region 6.

They scored three touchdowns and a safety in the first 10 minutes of the third quarter to gain control.

“Coach Miller definitely lit a fire under us here at halftime,” senior center-mike linebacker Caleb Ogle said. “He wasn’t mad, he was disappointed. We had a terrible week of practice and that first half reflected it; he sure let us know that.”

“It was loud and we were real quiet,” quarterback Daveon Dukes observed.

Both teams were playing without their regular quarterbacks, which contributed to the sloppiness of the first half. Weaver’s Robert Gaines stood on the sidelines on crutches with a hamstring injury and other ailments, but his prospects of returning are a lot better than his counterpart’s. Saks’ Roilan Torres is out for the year after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee in last week’s Piedmont game.

The Bearcats went with sophomore Jadon Calhoun and then sophomore Taylor Thompson in the fourth quarter after Calhoun got hurt on a roughing the passer penalty. They even used speedy Shamar Spinks in the Wildcat.

Torres’ loss thrust Dukes into a full-time role at quarterback and he responded as he did in his second-half role at Piedmont.

The absence of two starters was noticeable. Both teams rushed for only 26 yards in the first half and neither had 100 yards total. The only reason Weaver had a 7-0 halftime lead was because Calhoun and Spinks hooked up on a 59-yard touchdown with 1:17 left in the second quarter.

“We had a unique week in that we had so many guys banged up … so I figured we were going to be sloppy, but we were entirely too sloppy in the first half,” Miller said. “We played our worst half of football this year by far, not even close. They just needed a little wake-up call and we gave them one.

“We challenged them to come out and play with heart, passion on every play, something we didn’t do in the first half. We just didn’t show up.”

But the Wildcats turned it around in the second half, rolling up more than 230 yards of offense and never giving the Bearcats room to breathe.

Dukes directed the game-tying opening drive of the third quarter that might have replaced last week’s drive against Piedmont as Miller’s “drive of our season.” He also floated a 49-yard pass to Zay Elston to get their go-ahead touchdown drive going and then capped it with a 22-yard touchdown run.

“I felt confident,” Dukes said. “It was a lot of pressure on me, but all week my seniors were behind me and they kept pushing me to come out and have a good game. There was a lot of pressure on me, but I came out and did what I could do.”

“Daveon’s got a lot of ability, he just doesn’t realize it,” Miller said. “He’s got to play confident and sometimes he just doesn’t do that. We’ve got confidence in him, his teammates have confidence in him, he’s got to play confident and he did that in the second half.”

Before the quarter was over, the Wildcats added a safety when T.J. Gibbs forced a fumble on a sack that rolled out of the end zone and then Gibbs had a 20-yard touchdown run with 2:03 left in the quarter to make it 23-7.

Gibbs gave the Wildcats some good yards in the third quarter. Jonathan Cobb was their leading rusher with 115 yards, 71 coming on a burst in the fourth quarter that was stopped just short of the goal line. Cobb got in on the next snap.

While the Wildcats may have picked up the pace in the second half, the Bearcats never did get going. Saks held them to minus-4 yards rushing and 2 yards of net offense in the second half.

“We kind of got worn down a little bit,” Weaver coach Daryl Hamby said. “I knew the second half was gonna be (like that) because of fact if the injury bug hits us we don’t have the depth we had before at certain spots and we worn down a little bit.”

Saks 30, Weaver 7
Team stats Saks Weav

First downs 16 6
Rushes-yds 41-209 30-22
Passes 3-7-0 7-10-1
Passing yds 79 6
Fumbles-lost 0-0 3-2
Punts-avg 3-37.7 4-35.3
Penalties-yds 8-85 6-55

Scoring summary
Saks 0 0 23 7 – 30
Weaver 0 7 0 0 – 7

W – Shamar Spinks 59 pass from Jadon Calhoun (Miguel Canchucaja kick), 1:17 2Q
S – Tony Hunley 1 run (Anthony Cornejo kick), 8:41 3Q
S – Daveon Dukes 22 run (Anthony Cornejo kick), 5:50 3Q
S – Safety, forced fumble out of end zone, 4:45 3Q
S – T.J. Gibbs 6 run (Anthony Cornejo kick), 2:03 3Q
S – Johnathon Cobb 1 run (Anthony Cornejo kick), 6:04 4Q

Weaver’s Shamar Spinks (7) hauls in a pass in front of Saks’ KaMori Wilson-Hall that would turn into the first touchdown of the game. (Photo by Greg Warren)

Cover photo: Tony Hunley scores the first touchdown of a 23-point third quarter that lifted Saks over Weaver. (Photo by Greg Warren)

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