Gadsden City’s Matthew Sparks runs past Gardendale’s Sawyer Moore for a touchdown as Justin Peoples (2) looks on during the Titans (44-16 victory in the first round of the Class 6A state football playoffs on Friday, Nov. 10 at GCHS. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Gadsden City had little difficulty in advancing to the second round of the postseason for the second time in as many years on Friday, Nov. 10.
Facing Gardendale in the opening round of the Class 6A state payoffs, the Titans (8-3) built a 27-0 half-time lead en route to 44-16 victory at GCHS.
Gadsden City will host Hartselle in a second-round game On Friday, Nov. 17, setting up a rematch from when the teams met on Sept. 22 when the Tigers edged GCHS by a score or 31-28 at Hartselle.
“Our guys played really hard tonight and they played together,” said GCHS head coach Ali Smith. “We had a little bit of a slow start, but we ended up doing what we had to do to win. We just have to keep working on sustaining drives, because in the playoffs you have to be able to run the football
“Our kids have been doing a good job of executing in all three phases of the game and the coaches have been preparing good game plans all year long, hopefully we can continue to build on that.”
A pair of GCHS players broke school records against the Rockets. Gabriel Brito’s 50-yard field goal midway through the third quarter was the longest ever in program history. The previous mark was set by Paul Gilley in 2010 at 48 yards. T.J. Worthy’s 50-yard touchdown run at the 4:43 mark of the second period set the mark for the most rushing touchdowns in a single season at 23. The previous record was held by Alonzo Harris, who had 22 TDs in 2010.
Worthy finished with 102 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, while Brito kicked three field goals on the night. Brito returned only recently after suffering an injury just prior to the start of the season.
“[Brito] is a special kid,” said Smith. “He’s an all-state kicker, and we’re just glad to have him back.”
The Titans finished with a 304 to 140 edge in total yards over the Rockets, including a 235 to 50 edge on the ground.
The GCHS defense allowed Gardendale little room to operate. The Titans forced the Rockets to punt on their first seven possessions, with the last of those punts returned 80 yards for a touchdown by Dre Kirkpatrick, Jr.
Gardendale finally reached the end zone against the GCHS subs when Rowan Warmack returned a fumble 29 yards for a touchdown. By that time, Gadsden City led 38-8, and any hope of a of late rally by the Rockets was dashed a few minutes later when an interception by Cameron Rolley led directly to a 92-yard touchdown run by Kerrell Yow and a 28-point advantage.
Yow paced the GCHS ground game with 123 yards on only six attempts. He also had three catches for 15 yards.
Luke Waldrop was 10 for 18 in passing for 69 yards and a touchdown. Matthew Sparks had three receptions for 27 yards and a TD. Jadan Duran was 5 for 5 on extra point attempts.
Chris Butler had five tackles, while Jerrell Brasher and Trevion Johnson each had two sacks. Zyan Gibson and Jimmy Traylor both recovered a fumble.
The Gadsden City offense began clicking soon after going three-and-out on the game’s opening possession. The Titans took a 6-0 lead after one quarter by way of a pair of Brito field goals – one from 31 yards out and the other from 31 yards away.
On the first play from scrimmage of the second period, Worthy took it to the house from 28 yards out for a 13-point advantage.
A subsequent 11-play, 45-yard drive by Gardendale ended in a punt, which set up Worthy’s record-breaking score for a 20-0 lead.
A shanked punt quickly led to Waldrop’s nine-yard touchdown pass to Sparks on a fourth down and 2, sending the hosts into halftime ahead 27-0.
Kirkpatrick’s pick-six on the Rockets’ first series of the second half made it 34-0, while Brito’s record-setting field goal later in the third quarter pushed the lead to 37 points.
The Titan subs entered the game shortly thereafter, and Gadsden City soon secured a berth in the second round.
“Our kids have been waiting for this opportunity [against Hartselle],” said Smith. “It should be a fun game next Friday night.”