Gadsden City grounds Jets, clinch playoff berth

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

It took a bit longer than Gadsden City head coach Matt Scott would have liked, but his Titans eventually put away a pesky James Clemens squad for a 42-35 victory at a wet and windy Titan Stadium on Friday.

Gadsden City (7-1, 5-0) clinched a home playoff berth with the Class 7A, Region 4 win. A victory against Hazel Green at home next Friday would give Gadsden City its first region title since 2010.

Big plays on both sides of the ball late in the game helped secure the win. Gabe Ford’s 63-yard touchdown run with 3:17 left in the fourth quarter provided the hosts with a 42-28 cushion, and on the ensuing Jet series, Jer’Michael Isom came up with his second interception of the night, giving the ball back to GCHS with under two minutes to play.

But the Titans went three-and-out, and Clemens cashed in when Heath Burchfield tossed his fifth touchdown pass of the contest, in this case a 15-yatd strike to Immanuel Wilder. With the PAT, the Jets (5-2, 3-2) drew within seven points with 35 seconds on the clock.

It all came down to the ensuing onside kick, which Gadsden City recovered at midfield to seal its second straight victory and fifth consecutive region win.

Although pleased with the win, Scott was disappointed in the amount of yellow flags his team drew that allowed the Jet offense more opportunities.

“I don’t know how many 15-yard penalties we had, but we’re not going to play like that. We’re going to do whatever we have to do to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore. As usual, our kids played hard and with great effort, but at some point we’re going to have to play more disciplined. That’s on me, and we’re going to get it straightened out.”

It looked as if the Titans put the game away when Dante Rudolph’s 1-yard touchdown with 4:22 left in the third quarter provided GCHS with a 27-7 advantage.

But the Jets weren’t yet ready to head back to Madison.

Burchfield’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Miles Whitlow on the next series pulled the visitors within 13 points with 1:17 left in the period.

On the following kickoff, Lee kicked it short and recovered the ball after a Titan player touched it. Eight plays and 49 yards later, Burchfield and Whitlow teamed up for a 21-yard touchdown pass seven seconds into the fourth quarter. 

William Grochowski’s PAT was good, trimming the GCHS lead to 27-21.

Gadsden City, however, restored its 13-point advantage with five minutes left in the game. A 38-yard pass from Ahmad DeRamus to Ford got the Titans into Lee territory, and on a fourth down and 19 from the Jet 32-yard line, DeRamus found Jaylon Williams open down the sideline for the touchdown. DeRamus then passed to Jarvis McKee for the two-point conversion to make it 35-21.

But Lee responded just three plays later when Burchfield threw 33 yards to Devon Atkinson for a touchdown, drawing the Jets within seven points with 4:15 left. 

Ford finished with 188 yards on 10 rushing attempts. DeRamus was 8-for-17 in passing for 121 yards.

Isom’s first interception ended the Jets’ initial series and set up Jaylon Williams’ 18-yard touchdown run at 6:46 of the first quarter. The PAT was no good.

Lee proceeded to go three-and-out on its next drive, and Gadsden City got a big play from its special teams when Darnell Mooney returned the punt 60 yards for the touchdown. Parker Holland tacked on the extra point for a 13-0 lead at 4:56. 

The hosts extended their lead to 20 points on DeRamus’ 21-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Swain with 1:38 remaining in the first half.

Clemens got on the scoreboard with Burchfield’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Wilder with 20 seconds left before intermission. 

“We had a good chance to have this game in hand early and finish them off, but we couldn’t finished some drives offensively, and defensively we couldn’t get off the field,” said Scott. “But we’ll go back to work, and hopefully we’ll get those things straightened out before the playoffs.”

Gadsden City continues region play on Friday against Hazel Green in the Titans’ homecoming game. 

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