Photo: Gadsden City’s Jaelyn Fleming drags a pile of Hewitt-Trussville defenders during the Titans’ 38-24 loss last Friday.
By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
A sluggish start doomed Gadsden City High in a 38-24 loss to Hewitt-Trussville last Friday (Sept. 8) at Husky Stadium in Trussville.
The Huskies (2-0, 1-0) received the ball to start the game in the Class 7A, Region 4 opener for both teams, but the Titans forced a fumble and linebacker Jalen Griffin recovered the ball on the Hewitt-Trussville 32-yard line.
The Gadsden City offense gained one first down on its opening drive before settling for a 35-yard field from Jonathan Kilgo to take an early 3-0 lead with 8:15 remaining in the first quarter.
Hewitt-Trussville marched down the field on its next drive, and running back Elliott McElwain capped off a brisk seven-play drive with a 19-yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a 7-3 advantage with 6:23 left in the opening quarter.
The Titan offense went three-and-out on its next drive, but the Huskies muffed a punt and Gadsden City’s Jaelyn Fleming recovered the ball on the Husky 40-yard line. The Titans weren’t able to capitalize, however, and the drive ended with a missed 45-yard field goal attempt.
After the missed kick, the Huskies methodically moved the ball down the field on a 13-play, 80-yard drive. McElwain punched the ball in from two yards out to extend the lead to 14-3 with 8:39 remaining until halftime.
Gadsden City (0-3, 0-1) started its next drive on the 17-yard line, and the Titans sustained their first long series of the night. After making it to the Husky 23, coach Bart Sessions elected to go for it on fourth-and-six. The Hewitt-Trussville defense shut down any open passing lanes, however, and the Huskies took over on downs.
Husky quarterback Paul Tyson then picked apart the Gadsden City defense, and McElwain scored a five-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 21-3 with 21 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Titans weren’t content to run out the clock, though, and running back Jamontez Woods broke loose for a long run with only seconds remaining until halftime. But a penalty negated most of the run, and Gadsden City went into the locker room trailing 21-3.
Gadsden City received the ball to start the second half but fumbled on the first play and Hewitt-Trussville took over on the Titan 16. Two plays later, McElwain scored his fourth touchdown of the night on a four-yard run to push the lead to 28-3 with 11:37 left in the third quarter.
Jamontez Woods picked up where he left off just before halftime. On the third play of the Titans’ next drive, Woods found a crease an exploded for a 66-yard touchdown run. Kilgo’s extra point closed the gap to 28-10 with 10:26 remaining, and the Titans suddenly showed signs of life after a stagnant first half.
The Huskies were forced to punt on their next drive when Titan defender Calvin Williams went untouched off the edge and blocked the punt. Justin Price scooped the ball up on the Husky 15-yard line and sprinted into the end zone for a touchdown. Kilgo connected on the point after attempt, and the Titans cut the lead to 28-17 with 8:11 left in the third quarter.
Hewitt-Trussville took advantage of a fatigued Gadsden City defense on its next drive and
worked the ball down into the red zone. However, the Titan defense made a stand and forced an incomplete pass, and the Huskies settled for a field goal to increase their lead to 31-17.
On the ensuing kickoff, Jaelyn Fleming fielded the ball on his own 1-yard line before finding a seam and outracing Husky defenders for a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Despite trailing 28-3 only seconds into the third quarter, the Titans headed into the fourth quarter facing a 31-24 deficit.
Gadsden City’s first two drives of the fourth quarter failed to garner a first down. The Husky offense produced another long and time-consuming drive, and running back Antonio Reed scored from 10 yards out to give the Huskies a 38-24 lead with 7:07 left in the contest.
The Huskies were close to scoring again, but the Titans’ opportunistic defense forced another fumble, and Benjamin Bell pounced on the ball to give Gadsden City one last chance.
Titan quarterback Ryan Sparks found Woods out of the backfield for a 21-yard gain, but those were the last yards of the night for the offense. Four straight incomplete passes led to a turnover on downs, and the Huskies ran out the clock to secure the victory.
Gadsden City coach Bart Sessions said he was proud of the way his team fought back after the early deficit.
“Our kids played their tails off. We get down there and get into field goal range two different times. Once we elected to go for it, then we kick a field goal. We’re in the red zone three different times. We’re really close to capitalizing on those things.
“Our kids are playing better each week. The scores may not be an indication of that, but that’s a fine football team on that other sideline and all the praise goes to those guys. I thought we played our best game. Unfortunately, tonight it wasn’t quite good enough. But if we keep playing the way we played tonight and keep coming together as a team, it’s going to happen for us.”
Jamontez Woods led the Titans with 17 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown. He was also the team’s leading receiver with his 21-yard catch. Sparks finished the game completing 5 of his 13 passes for 45 yards. In addition to the 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, Fleming also had 23 yards rushing and two catches.
McElwain led the Huskies’ offense with 26 carries for 172 yards and four touchdowns and caught four passes for 45 yards. Reed carried the ball 13 times for 92 yards and a score. Tyson completed 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards as the Huskies outgained the Titans 474-243.
Gadsden City hosts James Clemens in another Region 4 matchup this Friday (Sept. 15) in the Titans’ first home game of the season. Sessions said he believes his team is making improvements and knows every game in the region will be against a tough opponent.
“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “We talked to our kids about taking a huge step forward with our discipline. I don’t think we had many pre-snap penalties tonight. I thought our kids lined up better. We’re not perfect but we’re learning.
“They’ve got heart. They’re great kids, and they’ve got heart and they battle. Each and every week there’s going to be a battle in our region, and it’s going to happen for us. We’re really, really close to having a fine football team.”