Photo: Gadsden City’s T.J. Worthy (5) looks for open space as Parker’s Jeremiah Beaman (9) pursues during the Titans’ 35-20 loss in the Class 6A football quarterfinals on Nov. 24 in Birmingham. (Courtesy of Average Joe’s Sports Talk)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
In the Class 6A state football quarterfinals on Nov. 24, it came down to the fact that A.H. Parker had Na’eem Offord at its disposal and Gadsden City did not.
The junior five-star defensive back/kick returner/punt returner scored four of the Thundering Herd’s five touchdowns – including three in the fist half – to help Parker post a 35-20 victory in Birmingham.
The victory gave the Herd (12-1) their first state semifinal berth since 1989. Gadsden City finished its season at 9-4. It was the fist time the Titans made the third round since 2016 and was the program’s most wins since 2014.
“[Offord] is a difference maker, and we made a mistake by kicking the ball to him,” said Gadsden City coach Ali Smith. “The [Parker] defense played exceptionally well. We couldn’t move the football.”
Parker limited Gadsden City to 46 yards of total offense, including minus-4 on the ground. The Herd finished with 344 total yards, with 107 via the rush.
Parker took the lead for good midway through the first quarter on Offord’s 2-yard TD run. Early in the second period, he returned a punt 87 yards for a score to put the Titans in a 14-0 hole.
Gadsden City drew within 11 points on Gabriel Brito’s 26-yard field goal before Offord ran back the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the GCHS 5-yard line, where he ran it in on the next play to push the Parker advantage to 21-3.
The Titans drew within 21-10 in the third quarter when Cameron Rolley covered s blocked Parker punt in the end zone, but the Herd responded with a 15-yard touchdown run from Chancellor Sparks to make it 28-10.
Gadsden City remained within striking distance with Kerrell Yow’s 10-yard TD run and Brito’s 28-yard field goal to close within 28-20 in the fourth quarter, but Parker gained some insurance with Offord’s 13-yard scoring with less than five minutes remaining.
For the Titans, Kai Franklin was 4 for 12 in passing for 45 yards. Justin Peoples had two receptions.
Rolley and Chris Butler each had seven tackles, followed by Dre Kirkpatrick, Jr., and Jordan Underwood with six each and Jerrell Brasher and Kevin Brooks with five each.
This article was supplemented by al.com.