Photo: Gaston’s Ethan Stone (15) zeroes in on Coosa Christian’s D.J. Smith (2) during the Conquerors’ 55-26 victory in high school football last Thursday (Aug. 27) in Gadsden. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
After being taken to the proverbial woodshed by Westbrook Christian in the season opener, Coosa Christian rebounded in a big way against another Etowah County neighbor on Aug. 28.
The host Conquerors rolled up 474 total yards and scored eight touchdowns on the way to a 55-26 victory over Gaston at Phillip Ellen Field.
Leading 20-12 heading into the second half, Coosa (1-1) scored four touchdowns in less than five minutes during the third quarter to effectively put the game out of reach and give
Mark O’Bryant his first win as the school’s head coach.
“We could have played a lot better, but overall I thought our kids played well,” he said. “We told the kids at halftime that I felt like we were almost there. I told them in order for us to win, we’d have to come out [of halftime] and score, hold [Gaston from scoring], and score again. That’s exactly what we did. It was just a good team effort. I’m not satisfied, but I’m happy.”
Leading the Conquerors’ offensive charge was sophomore quarterback Thomas Skaggs, who finished with 275 total yards and five touchdowns. He rushed 11 times for 127 yards and two scores and completed 6-of-16 passes for 138 yards and three TDs.
Senior running back Isaiah Cole also had a big night, rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and catching three passes for 65 yards and two scores.
D.J. Smith gained 43 yards on nine carries, while Clete O’Bryant added 42 yards on five attempts.
O’Bryant was pleased with the performance of the offensive line, which paved the way for the Conquerors’ 336 rushing yards.
“Those guys had a rough time against Westbrook, and we really worked them hard this week,” he said. “We challenged them, and they stepped up.”
The hosts started out the game behind the eight ball, as Gaston’s initial series yielded Josh Campbell’s 35-yard TD pass to Ethan Stone at 10:36 of the first quarter.
Coosa took the lead for good 65 seconds later, as Smith’s 45-yard kickoff return set up Skaggs’ 34-tard touchdown pass to Smith. Drake Albury pushed through the first of his seven extra points on the night.
A fumble recovery midway through the quarter led to Campbell’s 25-yard scoring strike to Cole, making it a 14-6 advantage.
The Bulldogs (1-1) drew within two points after a 10-play, 80-yard drive resulted in Campbell’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Zach Thacker at the 4:19 mark of the second period.
That was as close as the visitors would get. Three plays from scrimmage later, Cole weaved through the Gaston defense for a 26-yard TD run and a 20-12 lead that held up until intermission.
A 27-yard run by Cole on the first play of the second half put Coosa in prime field position, and the hosts took advantage when Skaggs and Cole hooked up for a 30-yard TD pass on fourth down.
Two plays into the ensuing Gaston possession, Koby Roberts picked off a pass at the Bulldogs 26-yard line. Coosa cashed in on the turnover when Skaggs took in from a yard out for a 34-12 lead.
A shanked Gaston punt provided the Conquerors with a first down at the Bulldog 38, and following a Bulldog penalty, Cole scored his second touchdown of the night from 22 yards out.
Gaston temporarily slowed down the Coosa momentum with a 24-yard touchdown run by Campbell, but Evan Delp ran back the ensuing kickoff 75 yards to the house to put the visitors in a 48-20 hole.
Skaggs’ 20-yard TD run in the closing seconds of the third quarter made it 55-20, while the Bulldogs’ final possession of the game ended with Campbell’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Justin Pope late in the fourth.
Campbell also produced some big numbers. He was 14-for-39 in passing for 176 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 138 yards and a score on 16 carries. Stone had nine receptions for 121 yards. Kobe Harris caught three passes for 35 yards and rushed eight times for 25 yards.
“We’re young, but we’re learning how to win and how to compete,” said O’Bryant. “We’re going to get better and better, and in three years we’re going to be really, really good. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ll get there.”
Coosa begins Class 1A, Region 7 play next Friday (Sept. 4) at home against Woodville. Gaston kicks off its Class 2A, Region 6 schedule with a home game against Southeastern.