Photo: Gaston High’s Malikah Warren (15) and Mason Reeves (22) tackle Sardis’ Mason Golden during a spring football jamboree on May 18 at Gaston. (Cole Frederick/Messenger)
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
Four teams from Etowah County finished spring football with a jamboree at Gaston High on May 18.
The Bulldogs hosted Sardis, West End, Coosa Christian and Ragland, and the matchups alternated between each team for 1-2 quarters throughout the evening.
Sardis played West End and Gaston for one quarter each to start the night for the varsity rosters. West End and Coosa squared off for two quarters, and Gaston took on Ragland in the final quarter.
Sardis 21, West End 0
The Lions won Class 4A, Region 7 a season ago and are moving up to 5A for the next two seasons. Sardis is making the move without Logan Gaskin, a four-year starter quarterback who led the Lions to a 7-4 record last year.
Rising senior Trent Presley and rising junior Jay Owens are in competition for the starting spot at quarterback for the fall. Presley, a dual-threat signal-caller, started the game and scored on an 8-yard touchdown run on the Lions’ opening possession to give his team a 7-0 lead.
The West End offense failed to sustain anything against the Lions, and Sardis scored on its ensuing possession on a 15-yard touchdown run by Luke Morris. Later in the quarter, Morris scored again from 16 yards out to give Sardis a 21-0 victory.
Sardis 14, Gaston 0
It took over half the quarter for either team to get on the scoreboard as the defenses were stingy for both squads.
Presley connected with Temon Wilson on an 18-yard touchdown strike with 4:43 remaining to give the Lions a 7-0 lead. Gaston threatened to score on its next possession, but Wilson intercepted a pass near the end zone and returned across midfield to set up the Lions with excellent field position.
Shortly thereafter, Presley found Brandon Noblitt for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 1:28 left in the quarter to extend the lead to 14-0.
Sardis coach Gene Hill said he was pleased with how both quarterbacks threw the ball.
“They both threw the ball well at times when we gave them time to throw it,” Hill said. “Presley is a little more athletic. He made some plays with his feet and made a couple of pretty good throws. When he breaks the defense down with his feet that will open some things up for him. We got a lot of work to do on offense. A lot of our timing wasn’t right with our center exchange. I thought our defense played well for the most part. They played with a little spirit. We’ve got some work to do but we’ll be all right.”
Gaston coach Swane Morris said that despite the loss, he loved the competitiveness of his team.
“I wanted to see us compete,” Morris said. “That was the big thing, how competitive and how physical we could be. I liked what I saw.”
Gaston running back Kameron Hawkins made his return to the field after he sustained a season-ending injury early last season. Morris said the senior running back is “ready to go” for the upcoming season.
“He’s ready to play,” Morris said. (With Hawkins) we can get back to what we used to be, and we’ve got more depth in the backfield.”
West End 21, Coosa Christian 15
The Conquerors and Patriots played for an entire half, and both teams had several explosive plays throughout the contest.
Coosa Christian jumped on the board first as senior quarterback Caiden Lipscomb connected with sophomore receiver Evan Delp for a 50-yard touchdown pass with 9:46 left in the first quarter. Running back Dartavious Britton ran in the two-point conversion to give the Conquerors an 8-0 lead.
West End responded with a lengthy drive, and Levi Armstrong scored on a 3-yard run. The Patriots missed the two-point conversion, and Coosa’s lead was trimmed to 8-6.
After the Patriots made a defensive stand, quarterback Jacob Jones broke loose for a 45-yard run to move the ball down to the Coosa 5-yard line. West End couldn’t work the ball into the end zone, however, and the Conquerors took over on their own 4.
On the first play of the ensuing Coosa drive, Britton made one cut on a carry to the left side and sprinted 96 yards for a touchdown. The extra point gave the Conquerors a 15-6 lead with 10:38 remaining in the second quarter.
The West End offense started clicking on its next drive when Jones found receiver Eli Pearce for a 33-yard touchdown pass. The extra point cut Coosa’s lead to 15-13.
The Conquerors’ next drive stalled, and the Patriot offense quickly went back to work. Armstrong reeled off a 45-yard run to set up West End in the red zone, where Jones scored from five yards out to give his team the lead for good. A successful two-point conversion gave West End a 21-15 lead.
Pearce sealed the game with an interception on Coosa’s next drive.
West End coach Kyle Davis liked how his team continued to fight even though they weren’t necessarily playing well early on in the two scrimmages.
“We could have laid down,” Davis said. “But I felt like we did fight back. I thought Jacob (Jones) played well tonight, and it was his first night to start at quarterback. Eli (Pearce) played a great game again tonight.
“I think we have a chance to be a decent football team. I really do. We have some good skill players.
Davis said that although the Patriots are very young and inexperienced along the offensive line,
he was encouraged by how they competed.
“We’ve got two guys out there who haven’t played much. [Having] nine days to get players ready to play up front is a tough thing to do. I felt like our skill guys did come along there towards then end and made some plays. We’ve got to get better for sure, though.”
Coosa Christian made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, and head coach Navendra Woods said he liked how hard his team played against the Patriots.
“We fought hard,” Woods said. “We’re low on numbers. We had seven to eight kids out, but overall the kids worked hard and fought.”
The year before Woods took over at Coosa in 2015, the Conquerors lost to the Patriots by a score of 71-0. He said that even though this was a spring scrimmage, it was an important step for the program.
Woods feels confident in Coosa’s skill position players but noted that the Conquerors struggled at times on the offensive and defensive lines. He said talent wasn’t the issue; rather, the team is low on lineman.
“Our offensive and defensive line coach is great,” Woods said. “We just don’t have the numbers. Talent is not the issue. We still feel really good going into the fall.”
Gaston 12, Ragland 8
The Bulldogs won the final quarter of the evening 12-8 over Ragland.
Morris said he was pleased with how his offense was able to sustain drives, which can be difficult early in the season.
“The ability to sustain a drive and being able to burn time off the clock is very important,” Morris said. “We had a 10-play drive early in the game, and that shows discipline.”
Gaston had two starters out on the offensive line, and Morris said there will be some competition on both sides of the line of scrimmage in fall camp. Overall, he liked how his team competed during both quarters of the scrimmage.
The Bulldogs open the 2018 season on Friday, Aug. 31 at Sand Rock. West End hosts Susan Moore on Thursday, Aug. 23. Sardis travels to Sylvania to start its season on Aug. 31. Coosa Christian hosts Westbrook Christian on Friday, Aug. 24.