By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Cedar Bluff built a 28-0 lead en route to a 49-20 Class 1A Region 5 victory over Coosa Christian on Friday in Gadsden.
The Conquerors (0-3, 0-2) didn’t go quietly, however. A wild fourth quarter saw the teams combine for 41 points and trade touchdowns on six consecutive possessions.
After the smoke cleared, Coosa head coach Scott Clifton noted that his squad was game but severely undermanned.
“It comes down to numbers. [Cedar Bluff] can roll in and out guys, and I can only roll in 13 or 14 kids. The game boiled down to attrition in the third and fourth quarter, and we just got tired. But they’re a very good football team, and we gave them everything they could handle in the first two quarters.”
The Conquerors didn’t help their cause with five fumbles. The hosts recovered every one of those loose balls, but the resulting lost yardage kept Coosa in poor field position for much of the night.
“We’re still young and we still make mistakes,” said Clifton. “It’s the little things that we’ve got to correct and find ways not to shoot ourselves in the foot. Right now, we’re not doing that very well.”
Coming out of halftime with a 14-0 lead, the Tigers (1-3, 1-1) went ahead by three touchdowns when Delontae Williams polished off a three-play, 22-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run at 6:16 of the third quarter.
On the visitors’ next play from scrimmage, quarterback Dalton Cosby scored from 20 yards out, and Wesley Richardson’s PAT made it 28-0 with 3:18 left in the period.
But the Tigers’ lone turnover led to Coosa’s first points of the night.
Caleb Sanderson’s interception set the hosts up at the Cedar Bluff 38, and seven plays later Coosa went for it on a fourth down and 9. The Conquerors cashed in when Johnny Grizzard and Ben Mills hooked up for a 14-yard touchdown with 10 minutes remaining in the game. The extra point was blocked.
The Tigers answered with a 60-yard, six-play drive that saw Cosby run four times for 29 yards. Williams’s 20-yard touchdown run and Richardson’s PAT pushed the Cedar Bluff lead to 35-6 at 7:36 of the fourth quarter.
Coosa responded in kind four plays later with Grizzard’s 40-yard touchdown pass to Wesley Grizzard. Johnny Grizzard’s two-ppint conversion run pulled the hosts within 25-14 with 5:18 left.
The Tigers didn’t blink. On the next play from scrimmage, Williams took it to the house from 68 yard out, setting the score at 42-14 at 5:23.
The Conquerors then put together a 10-play, 74-yard possession that was kept alive by four Cedar Bluff penalties for 50 yards.
Johnny Grizzard and Mills hooked up three times for 38 yards during the series, the last time for a 12-yard touchdown with 2:19 on the clock.
The Tigers returned the favor two plays later on Williams third TD of the night, in this case a 55-yard TD at 1:11 that was capped by Richardson’s seventh PAT of the game.
McWhorter pointed out that he let his youngsters fend for themselves after most the starters left the game with a 28-0 advantage.
“We had some younger defensive lineman and backs in at that point, and we weren’t going to take them out. We were a little ragged in the first half and missed a couple of opportunities throwing the ball and struggled to get the running game going. We talked at halftime about coming out and running the ball, and I felt that we wore them down a little bit after halftime. But I’m really proud of our defense. We gave up some points but we also had some really big stops. Bottom line is we had to get a region win tonight, and we did.”
Cedar Bluff finished with 402 total yards to Coosa’s 308.
Grizzard completed 18-of-34 passes for 191 yards. He also led the Conquerors in rushing with nine carries for 60 yards. Mills had nine receptions for 90 yards, while Isaac Hamby caught five passes for 25 yards.
For Cedar Bluff, Cosby was 9-for-18 in passing for 146 yards. He also gained 107 yards on 15 carries.
Williams rushed 12 times for 159 yards, while Devante Dixon caught four passes for 95 yards.
The Tigers took the lead for good on the second play of the second quarter when Williams scored on a 4-yard touchdown at 11:16.
On Cedar Bluff’s final drive of the first half, Cosby and Dioxn teamed up for a 5-yard scoring strike that sent the visitors into the locker room up 14-0.
Clifton, who played with and coached under McWhorter at Cedar Bluff, said that the good feelings ceased once the game started.
“I still have a lot of respect for those guys and I still see them every day. It’s mixed emotions, but I’m here to do a job and right now I bleed blue and gold.”
“Coach Clifton and I have been friends for a long time, and most of his coaching staff coached and played with us.We’re both competitors who want to win, but regardless of what happens in between the lines, we’ll always be friends.”
Both teams continue region play next week, with Coosa Christian visiting Spring Garden and Cedar Bluff hosting Jacksonville Christian.