Photo: Gadsden City’s Ryan Sparks (left) hands off to Jaelyn Fleming during the Titans’ 38-35 victory over James Clemens on Sept. 15. (Gary Wells)
By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
Gadsden City High School head football coach Bart Sessions was a happy man last Friday (Sept. 15) after his Titans (1-3, 1-1) gave him both his first win of the season and first at GCHS.
After dropping its first three games of the season, GCHS ushered in the Bart Sessions Era with a 38-35 victory over Class 7A, Region 4 rival James Clemens of Madison.
The final 16 seconds of the first half proved to be the backbreaker for the Jets (2-2, 0-2) when Jonathan Kilgo booted a 40-yard field goal to make the score 21-16. James Clemens did not cover the ensuing kickoff, and the Titans recovered the ball with 13 seconds to go in the half. Ryan Sparks then tossed a 19-yard TD pass to LaRay Mostella to give the hosts a 24-21 lead 24-21 halftime.
The third quarter saw the Titans run only seven offensive plays, but Gadsden City put 14 points on the board.
Sparks threw a 77-yard touchdown pass and Jaelyn Fleming broke a 61-yard run for a score to give the Titans a 38-28 lead going into the fourth quarter. However, James Clemens cut the lead to 38-35 with 10:42 remaining in the game on a 49-yard run by Devon Atkinson.
The Titans took the ensuing kickoff and drove to the Jet 39-yard line, where Sparks punted the ball dead at the James Clemens 1. The Jets then drove to the Gadsden City 31, where the visitors faked a 48-yard field goal. The attempt fell incomplete at the Titan 13-yard line as time expired.
“I was scared to death before it was finally over,” said Sessions. “This is a tremendous win for our program. Everyone knows I’m a defensive guy, but Clemens has so much talent.”
James Clemens wasted little time in putting the first points on the scoreboard. Dylan Blackburn ran the opening kickoff back to the Titan 11-yard line, and Atkinson scored on the next play to give the Jets a 7-0 lead.
Gadsden City answered exactly six minutes later. The Titans drove 80 yards in 16 plays with Jamontez Woods scoring on a 1-yard run. Kilgo knotted the game at 7-7 with his PAT.
James Clemens took the lead right back, driving 66 yards in eight plays. Atkinson scored his second touchdown with 2:05 to go in the first quarter to make it 14-7.
Dylan Blackburn scored on a 78-yard TD run to increase the Jet lead to 21-7 with 10:10 to go in the first half.
A route appeared to be in the making, but Gadsden City finally woke up, driving 74 yards in seven plays to cut the James Clemens lead to 21-13 when Sparks fired a 44-yard scoring pass to LaRay Mostella. The two-point attempt was stopped short.
Gadsden City outgained James Clemens in total yardage by a 495 to 356 margin. Sparks threw for 320 yards and three touchdowns on 19 of 31 passes. Fleming rushed for 114 yards.
Atkinson rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Jets.
“We played some of the best teams in the state during the first three weeks, and I’m proud of our kids and coaches for getting this win at home,” said Sessions. “We did get a little bruised and banged up tonight.”
Gadsden hosts Grissom this Friday (Sept. 22) in more region action.