Photo: Gadsden City’s Jamontez Woods runs past Oxford’s Jonovan Carlisle during the Titans’ 35-6 loss on Friday, Aug. 31. (Gary Wells)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Missed opportunities and inconsistency on offense doomed Gadsden City in its home opener against Oxford on Friday, Aug. 31. The Titans mustered only 120 total yards on the way to a 35-6 loss at Titan Stadium.
Gadsden City (0-2) avoided its first shutout since the third game of the 2013 season on Deonte Jones’ 2-yard touchdown run as the final buzzer sounded.
The Class 6A No. 2 Yellow Jackets (2-0) led 14-0 at halftime and 21-0 after three quarters. The Titans’ best chance to close within striking distance was on Quinton Densmore’s interception with just under three minutes left in the third quarter. The turnover set up the hosts with good field positon at the Yellow Jacket 28, but the ensuing possession ended when Oxford’s Tre Fegans picked off a pass in the end zone. The Titans were forced to punt on their next series, and Jordan Booker’s 16-yard touchdown run at the 7:24 mark of the fourth quarter effectively put the game out of reach.
Of Gadsden City’s first 11 offensive possessions, seven ended in punts, one on a blocked field goal, one on a failed fourth down conversion attempt, one at the halftime buzzer and the last on Fegans’ pick. The Titans had just three non-penalty first down after three quarters.
Meanwhile, Oxford rolled up 370 total yards, 245 via the rush. Senior halfback Ty Smith-Lindsey finished with 110 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Trey Higgins completed 8 of 16 passes for 129 yards, while Roc Taylor had four receptions for 90 yards.
Despite the loss, GCHS head coach Bart Sessions feels that his team is just an adjustment or two away from getting on the right track.
“We’ve just got to learn that we can’t make those types of mistakes against a program like Oxford. If we want to compete with those programs, we have to play with greater discipline. I don’t know how many plays we played on defense, but we have to do a better job of getting off the field on third downs and shorten some drives. Their big offensive line came out and leaned on us a little bit, and we were obviously fatigued in the third quarter.
“We’re playing pretty good defense, but we need to run one of those picks in [for a touchdown] and light a fire under us so we can get this thing going. But we’re young up front and we just played two of the best defenses in the state, and there’s no way that we can simulate that type of speed in practice.”
In his second varsity game, sophomore quarterback DeMarcus Mason completed 8-of-10 passes for 40 yards. Jones was the Titans’ leading rusher with 45 yards on 10 attempts.
The visitors took the lead for good on Smith-Lindsey’s 4-yard touchdown run on Oxford’s opening drive. Miseal Reyes kicked the first of his five extra points for the 7-0 advantage at 6:20 of the first quarter.
Gadsden City had an opportunity to get on the scoreboard early in the second period after the Yellow Jackets misplayed a handoff and had to fall on the ball at their own 3-yard line. The ensuing short punt gave the Titans a first down at the Oxford 25, but the good field position went for naught when a 30-yard field goal attempt came up short.
The hosts dug themselves another hole when Oxford partially blocked and recovered a punt. On the next play from scrimmage, Higgins hooked up with Taylor for a 27-yard touchdown with 46 seconds left in the half.
Matters grew worse for the Titans on the initial series of the second half, as Oxford drove 70 yards in eight plays for a score, this time by way of a 21-yard run from Smith-Lindsey at 8:42 of the third quarter.
The Yellow Jackets capped the scoring on Xyon Satcher’s 50-yard touchdown off a fumble recovery at 7:04 of the fourth quarter.
Jones’ touchdown run in the waning seconds was too little, too late, but Sessions remained optimistic about his team’s future.
“I thought we did a better job this week, but I thought we played a better opponent, and that’s no disrespect to Etowah. Oxford’s a fine football team that’s going to make a lot of noise. It’s just going to take one game for us to get clicking, and when that happens, I think we’ll start playing with even more confidence and we’ll compete with anyone in the state of Alabama. We just have to get this thing righted in just a very few areas, and we’ll get there.”
Sessions noted that the Titans’ formal season begins next week at home against Sparkman in the team’s Class 7A Region 4 opener.
“At this point, all of our goals are still in front of us, including the opportunity to go the state playoffs and win a state championship. That’s taking nothing away from Oxford; they have a fine football team and Coach (Ryan) Herring and his staff do a wonderful job. But it’s not going to be too long before we’re going to turn that corner and look like a football team [like Oxford] that plays mistake-free football.”
“This is a place that should be successful, and we’re going to be successful,” Sessions added. “These kids are pouring their hearts and souls into this thing, and they deserve this community to stay behind them.”