Photo: Gadsden City’s Kerrell Yow (27) avoids Hartselle’s Jakaleb Goodwin during the Titans’ 22-15 victory in the second round of the Class 6A state football playoffs on Friday, Nov. 17 at GCHS. (Courtesy of Aveage Joe’s Sports Talk)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
For the first time in seven years, the Gadsden City High football team will participate in the Elite Eight round of the postseason.
A last-minute touchdown propelled the Titans to a 22-15 victory over Hartselle in a second-round game on Friday, Nov. 17 at GCHS.
Trailing by a point with a minute and change remaining in the fourth quarter, Gadsden City drove to the Tiger 9-yard line, where backup quarterback Kai Franklin connected with Alex Swafford for the game-winning score.
Franklin was an efficient 4 for 5 in passing for 45 yards while rushing for 74 yards on four carries after entering the game when an injury sidelined starting quarterback Luke Waldrop early in the contest
“We go through those situations in practice, and you couldn’t ask them to execute it any better than they did tonight,” said GCHS head coach Ali Smith. “All year we’ve talked to our younger guys about being ready to play at a moment’s notice, and Kai showed that he was prepared and able to run the offense and execute the game plan.”
The Titans (9-3) visit A.H. Parker (11-1) on Friday, Nov. 24 for Gadsden City’s first state quarterfinal game since the 2016 season.
The victory gave GCHS a measure of revenge after losing 31-28 to Hartselle in Week 5.
“We look at it more like redemption then revenge, because we just didn’t execute that night,” said Smith. “We had about five or six plays in that game when in where if we had gotten back those self-inflected wounds, the outcome might have been different.”
As usual, sophomore running back T.J. Worthy assumed the bulk of the offensive load. Worthy carried 19 times for 165 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run. He also caught two passes.
“T.J. and the offensive line have been pretty good for us all year long,” said Smith. “I’m very proud of the effort of those guys tonight.”
Kerrell Yow finished just shy of the century marking with 99 yards on seven attempts.
Also missing the game were staring defensive linemen Jerrell Brasher and Taylor Barber, who is the team’s long snapper.
“That’s why we were so excited to see some of our younger guys stepping up and making some plays with those guys out,” said Smith.
The Titans out-gained Hartselle by a 398 to 189 margin, including a 341 to 189 edge on the ground.
The Tigers (-3) opened the scoring with Jayden Morris’ 5-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Worthy’s 80-yard TD dash tied the score at 7-7- early the second period.
A 54-yard TD scamper by Yow proved GCHS with a 14-7 advantage in the third quarter before the Tigers went ahead 15-14 by way to Peyton Steele’s 3-yard touchdown and two-point conversion run.
That was not quite enough for the visitors, as Swafford’s TD reception and Justin Peoples’ two-point conversion run held up as the winning points and secured the Titans’ road trip to Birmingham this Friday.
Chris Butler led the way defensively for Gadsden City with eight tackles followed by T. Sims and Nemo Samples with seven each and Dre Kirkpatrick, Jr., with six.
For Hartselle, Carter Lee was 6 for 13 in passing for 44 yards. Greg Owmby gained 56 rushing yards on 14 attempts.
Smith views Parker as a big, athletic team that applies a heavy pass rush.
“We know that Parker likes to rush the quarterback,” said Smith. “Guys like [Jeremiah Bearman] and [Jeremiah Hall] will really get after you, and they’ve got some really good cornerbacks in [Na’heem Offord] and [Eric Tarrant], so we’ll have our hands full. But it should be an exciting football game.”