Titans get by Hazel Green, clinch region title

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By Chris McCarthy/Editor

Facing a Hazel Green squad that gave as good as it received last Friday (Oct. 17), Gadsden City used big plays on both sides of the ball to post a 62-38 victory that secured the Class 7A, Region 4 championship.

Gadsden City’s first region title in four years did not come easily. 

A pair of touchdowns off the Titans’ initial two series of the second half provided the hosts with a 24-point lead.

But the No. 4 Titans (8-1, 6-0) were far from being in the clear. 

The Trojans (4-4, 3-3) drew within 42-25 on the next series by way of Kennedy Obiyor’s 6-yard touchdown run, but Damon Williams’ 3-yard TD run on the following possession pushed the GCHS lead to 19 points.

Hazel Green then kept within striking distance with Everett Lanier’s 2-yard score before Dante Rudolph’s 41-yard touchdown run extended the Titan lead to 55-30 with 5:55 left in the game.

The Trojan special teams then lent a hand to the visitors cause, as Obiyor took the ensuing kickoff 80 yards to house to trim the deficit to 55-38 with 5:37 on the game clock.

Matters took a turn for worse when Hazel Green recovered the onside kick, giving the Trojans the ball at the their own 48.

The visitors quickly moved deep inside Titan territory when Cole Guffey completed passes of 16, 25 and 2 yards.

With Hazel Green poised to narrow the gap to at least 10 points, Jer’Michael Isom picked off a Guffey pass attempt in the end zone and ran the ball out to the GCHS 2.

Some breathing room was sorely needed, and Gabe Ford came through in a big way.

The senior running back scampered 10 yards for a first down, and three plays later, he hauled in a pass for 32 yards to bring GCHS near midfield.

On the next play, Ford rambled for 30 yards to the Trojan 17, where ran it in for the score and a 24-point final margin.

“It was a roller-coater ride tonight, but I’m excited for the kids,” said GCHS head coach Matt Scott. “We’re not as balanced as we’d like to be, but when we’re passing we’re hitting on some big timing patterns. We know that we can run the football, and the offense line just took over up front. Going 98 yards for a touchdown at the end was big, and that’s important to be able to do that and run down the clock.”

Gadsden City got off a to good start when the Titans’ opening possession was capped by Albert DeRamus’ 48-yard touchdown pass to Jaylon Williams and Parker Holland’s PAT at 10:35 of the first quarter.

The Trojans responded in kind, however, as their initial drive yielded Guffey’s 34-yard scoring strike to Nicholas Moreno at 9:08. The extra point was not good, so GCHS lead 7-6.

Hazel Green’s first and only lead of the game came with 22 seconds left in the period. With Gadsden City at its own 12-yard line, Moreno picked off a pass attempt and returned it for the score. The PAT was blocked, but the visitors led 12-7.

The Titans, however, shook off the turnover with two quick scores. The next GCHS drive ended in DeRamus’ 35-yard touchdown pass to Denzel Mooney at 12:23 of the second quarter. 

On the next play from scrimmage, Jalen Swain recovered a fumble at Trojan 47, and the ensuing eight-play drive was capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Rudolph. With Holland’s extra point, the hosts had a 21-12 lead with 6:52 remaining before halftime.

“That’s what you want to see, how your kids responded in that kind of situation,” said Scott. “Our kids don’t get rattled, and that’s the type of mentality we’ve been trying to achieve since we’ve been here. It’s all about handling the highs and lows of a game.” 

After forcing a punt, Gadsden City put together another scoring drive, in this case an eight-play, 72-yard possession polished off by Ford’s 7-yard touchdown run at 1:31.

But Moreno returned the following kickoff 43 yards to the GCHS 47, and three plays later Guffey threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Moreno.

Rudolph intercepted the two-point conversion attempt, but Hazel Green was within 28-18 at the half.

Gadsden City took advantage when the Trojans’ opening possession of the second half fizzled out on a failed fourth down conversion attempt. 

Taking over the Hazel Green 34, the hosts eventually arrived at the 8, where Ford rammed into the end zone on third down and 1. 

Holland’s PAT pushed the GCHS advantage to 35-18 at 7:31 of the third quarter.

After another Trojan punt, DeRamus and Jaylon Williams teamed for a 72 touchdown pass for a 42-18 lead at 3:07.

“Obviously we’ve got some major loose ends to tied up, but we’ll worry about that tomorrow and let these guys enjoy this one,” said Scott. “The kids worked hard and they deserved it. We’re fortunate that we’ve got a few weeks to get some things squared away.” 

Gadsden City closes out the regular season on Friday with a visit to Buckhorn. 

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