By Chris McCarthy/Editor
Several Gadsden City High seniors reaped the benefits of hard work in the classroom and on the gridiron on Wednesday (Feb. 1).
Eight Titan players capped their prep careers by signing college scholarships – offensive linemen Toryque Bateman (University of Louisville), Quaddrick Rice (Arizona Western Community College) and Tank Collins (Miles College); running back Damon Williams (Arizona Western Community College); linebacker C.J. Winston (Tennessee-Chattanooga); defensive linemen Damian Thompson ((Northeast Mississippi Community College) and Trevonte Carter (West Alabama); and defensive back Joe Tillis (Miles College).
The 2017 GCHS graduates were major factors in Gadsden City’s six-game win streak after a 1-5 start. GCHS made it to the semifinal round of the state playoffs. It was the first GCHS senior class to play in a state semifinal two out of three years.
“You don’t know what you have leadership-wise until you’re sitting at 1-5,” said GCHS head football coach Matt Scott, who was named the ASWA Class 7A Coach of the Year. “You’ve got to have guys like this to keep the wheels on, because every one of these guys sitting up here believed that we were going to win the next game, and the game after that one. They did a great job of buying into what we were doing and not giving up, and that says a lot about the season we ended up having.
“We got a lot of things accomplished, and these guys spearheaded a lot of it. In our program, you’re going to have to play with great effort and be consistent every day in practice, and these guys certainly did that.”
A three-year starter at halfback, Williams was named to the Class 7A All-State first team after rushing for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught nine passes for 122 yards. He finished second in school history in career rushing yards and touchdowns.
“Damon’s success is well documented, and he’s been a great player for us since he was in the 10th grade,” said Scott. “The first thing that comes to my mind with Damon is that his mental toughness is unmatched. When things weren’t going good for us, he wanted the ball. On Damon’s year-end highlight film, 75 percent of his runs were in the playoffs. He played his best against the best competition.”
Basketball was Bateman’s preferred sport before committing to the football program in earnest prior to his junior year.
“The sky’s the limit for Toryque,” said Scott. “In this senior class, there’s probably not 10 to 15 guys in the nation that are 6’8 and 315 pounds and have [Bateman’s] athleticism.”
A Class 7A All-State first team selection, Thompson led the team in tackles with 132, including 12 for a loss, from the nose guard position. He also had four sacks and two blocked field goal attempts.
“There were a lot of times during practice when we had to take him out, because we couldn’t block him and we had to get some work done” said Scott. “We played the best teams out there last season, and we didn’t play against [a nose guard] better than him. The first player that the other coaches talked about was No. 99. Damian worked real hard on his weight in the off-season and got himself to the point where he could run 15 yards and make a tackle.”
A two-year starter at defensive end, Carter had 133 tackles, including 18 for a loss, and seven sacks.
“Trevonte was an explosive player and just dominant on the defensive line,” said Scott. “If by the height and weight chart, you’re considered undersized [by college recruiters], you’d better be really good, and Trevonte Carter is. He and Kool Aid (Thompson) anchored the D-line for us.”
Winston finished the season with 92 tackles, including 16 for a loss, and two sacks.
“C.J. was a little bit of a late developer, and he really came on this year,” said Scott. “He impressed the [UTC] coaches not just on the field, but with the type of guy he is. He knew early on that UTC was the right fit for him.”
Scott referred to Rice, a second-team all-state pick, as the “road grader’ of the GCHS offensive line.
“We’re a big wide zone-run team, and when you run that, you need a tackle that can dominate those defensive ends,” said Scott. “Quaddrick’s 6’3 and 308 [pounds], but he’s so quick and athletic and has the feet of a guard to pull. When it was on the line, we ran behind that guy.”
Tillis had 65 tackles and five interceptions from his cornerback position.
“Joe has the versatility to play corner or safety,” said Scott. “He’s tall and long and has great speed. [Miles] got a real steal there, and Joe’s going to be a good player for them.”
Collins started at center last season after starting at guard as a junior.
“The center’s the one that’s IDing the fronts and telling everybody who to block, and Tank did a really good job in those areas,” said Scott. “With his outgoing personality, Tank’s the kind of guy who colleges want to represent their team around campus. He’s also one of the strongest players I’ve had here.”