E.A. Sports Today

Tough day for the locals

Six of the nine playoff teams from Calhoun County took it on the chin in Friday’s opening round

Anniston 52, Sipsey Valley 0
Gardendale 31, Oxford 14
Gordo 50, Ohatchee 6
Jacksonville 35, Bibb Co. 28
Lynn 42, Donoho 0
Piedmont 61, Oakman 0
Pleasant Grove 43, Alexandria 14
St. James 54, Walter Wellborn 7
Trinity 37, Saks 0

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

GARDENDALE — The way the ball bounced Oxford’s way early in the game Friday night it looked like it was going to be the Yellow Jackets’ night, but once Gardendale quarterback Tyler Nelson got going it was a whole different story.

The Yellow Jackets got a gift fumble on the first play from scrimmage and scored on a broken play on the ensuing drive, but Nelson proved too much to handle and the Rockets pulled away to end Oxford’s season 31-14 in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.

Nelson rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns and completed 10 of 17 passes for 84 yards. He completed the first eight passes he threw.

“We knew the quarterback was going to be hard to tackle over and over again,” Oxford coach Sam Adams said.

“No. 5, i give him his props,” Jackets senior corner E’mari Carroll said. “He can run the ball, he can throw the ball. He’s a very good athlete. He knows how to get out of the pocket. He knows what he’s doing.”

The game started so promising for the Yellow Jackets. Nelson completed a pass to Jonathan Harris, but as soon as Harris turned upfield the ball popped loose and Eli Bozeman was there to recover at the 35 and bring it back inside the 15.

The Jackets turned potential disaster into a touchdown. Their snap on third down hit quarterback Mason Mims in the midsection, but Damious Wilson was fortuitously nearby, scooped up the loose ball and turned a broken play into an 11-yard touchdown.

They took a 14-7 lead later in the quarter when Mims hit Judd Syer over the middle from 8 yards out, but it was downhill from there.

After that initial fumble, the Rockets played flawlessly. They answered both Oxford touchdowns and then added a 39-yard field goal in the final minute of the second quarter to take a 17-14 halftime lead.

In the second half, they let their defense do the talking, holding the Jackets to minus-15 yards rushing and 51 yards total, while the offense added two more scores.

“We separated ourselves in the second half,” Nelson said. “Everything clicked for us in the second half.”

“We came out, we had high energy and we were ready to play, and then in the second half we kind of got down on ourselves, we didn’t make a lot of plays, they made some plays and I feel like we just shut down instead of keep playing,” Carroll said. “When you get up like that you want to keep that energy high and our energy just got low. If we keep the energy up next year I feel like this team will be great. Oxford will become great again.”

The Jackets appeared to get a boost to start the second half when Wilson returned the kickoff to midfield (knocked off his feet by kicker Kyle Norris), but they lost three yards on their first offensive series and punted. The wind seemed to leave them when the Rockets blocked Rey Barrera’s 39-yard field goal attempt later in the quarter that would’ve gotten them back to a one-score game.

“We didn’t go into it thinking we had to play perfect and hope for some breaks; it really wasn’t one of those kind of things,” Adams said. “I know we see it’s a 17-point game, but we’re probably talking about six to eight plays in the game that decided it and they made them.”

The loss ended the Jackets’ season at 5-6. It was their first losing season since 2015.

“The senior class that we have, 19 of those guys, they continued to fight their guts out whether we were up, down or anywhere in between, and we had all of that this year,” Adams said. “We had some definite bright spots and we had some low points and our senior class took a really workmanlike atmosphere.

“We did not go into this thinking this is a rebuilding kind of year whatsoever. It’s kind of gotten out there a little bit, but that’s not the way we looked at it at all. Our seniors worked themselves off the entire year, did everything we asked them to, and we started a whole lot of young guys in between with them. Hopefully, those freshmen, sophomore, junior guys who are returning will be able to look back and see this is what we did well and this is what we were lacking.

“I’m proud of our guys at the end of the day. I wish I could have given them a little more and put them in some better spots time to time, but I know they fought their guts out the entire season.”

OXF (14)GARD (31)
81st Downs18
11-22-1Passing (C-A-I)10-17-0
101Passing yds84
Oxford (5-6)14000 –14
Gardendale (8-3)71077 –31

O: Damious Wilson 11 run (Rey Barrera kick), 10:28 1Q
G: Tyler Nelson 55 run (Kyle Norris kick), 8:04 1Q
O: Judd Syer 8 pass from Mason Mims (Rey Barrera kick), 2:21 1Q
G: Tyler Nelson 4 run (Kyle Norris kick), 10:11 2Q
G: Kyle Norris 39 FG, 0:50 2Q
G: Bryan Gilmore 2 run (Kyle Norris kick), 8:23 3Q
G: Tyler Nelson 9 run (Kyle Norris kick), 6:42 4Q

Pleasant Grove 43, Alexandria 14

PLEASANT GROVE — Quarterback Eric Handley completed 13 of 16 passes for 290 yards and three first-half touchdowns and the Spartans jumped out to a 22-0 first-quarter lead in the Class 5A playoff game. The Spartans held top Alexandria weapon Antonio Ross to just 34 yards rushing.

It took Handley less than a minute to get going. He hooked up with Clarence Taylor on a 76-yard touchdown pass 52 seconds into the game and the Spartans were off and running. Meanwhile, their defense kept the Valley Cubs (5-5) from doing the same, allowing just 109 yards rushing and 165 yards total.

The Spartans (9-1) have won seven in a row.

ALEX (14)PG (43)
151st Downs19
5-19-1Passes (C-A-I)14-18-1
56Passing yds295
Alexandria (5-5)7007 –14
Pleasant Grove (9-1) 221470 –43

P: Clarence Taylor 76 pass from Eric Handley (Andre Watts Jr. kick), 11:08 1Q
P: Fumble return for touchdown (Cam Wormley conversion), 6:51 1Q
P: Collin Moore 37 run (Andre Watts Jr. kick), 3:00 1Q
A: DaMarkus Williams interception return (Cleat Forrest kick), 0:00 1Q
P: Davey Lavender 31 pass from Eric Handley (Andre Watts Jr. kick), 11:06 2Q
P: Aaron Tift 12 pass from Eric Handley (Andre Watts Jr. kick), 1:45 2Q
P: Collin Moore 12 run (Andre Watts Jr. kick), 3:57 3Q
A: Antonio Ross 27 pass from Ty Barker (Cleat Forrest kick), 8:02 4Q

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