By Kim West/For Athens New-Courier
Tanner senior quarterback Chadarius Townsend ran for four touchdowns and nearly 300 yards and the defense had five interceptions as the No. 9 Rattlers fended off West End, 41-16, in the Class 2A, Region 7 opener for both teams on Friday (Sept. 2) at Tanner.
Tanner (1-2, 1-0), bounced back from its first 0-2 start in 15 seasons, erupting for 548 yards of total offense and extending the state’s best region win steak to 48 victories. The Rattlers haven’t loss a region game since 2009.
Tanner reeled off 20 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to seize control. The teams combined for 13 penalties for 127 yards and seven turnovers, including five interceptions for the Patriots and eight flags against the Rattlers.
West End lost quarterback Payne Stancil midway through the second quarter when he attempted to tackle Tanner defensive back Oman Smothers, who had picked off Stancil at the Rattlers’ 15-yard line. Tanner defensive lineman Kobe Shoulders made what appeared to be a punishing but clean crack-back block on Stancil during Smothers’ interception return. But Shoulders got whistled for targeting, resulting in an ejection with 5:53 left until halftime.
Townsend, who scored on runs of 82, 9, 8 and 95 yards and rushed 18 times for 291 yards, opened the scoring when he darted up the middle, slipped three tackles and raced up the left sideline on Tanner’s first play of the game for a 7-0 lead.
West End answered with a 12-play, 65-yard march as Patriots’ receiver Andre’ Little scored on a 2-yard run to tie the game at 7-7.
Following a West End three-and-out, Tanner running back Jaquavious Cosby burst through a huge hole on the first play of the ensuing drive, scampering free for a 73-yard touchdown to lead 14-7.
The Patriots responded with a 10-play drive that stalled in the red zone, but Stancil nailed a 32-yard field goal to trim the lead to 14-10.
Tanner built a 21-10 halftime lead after Townsend darted around left end for a 10-yard touchdown with 4:07 left in the second quarter. During the Rattler drive, Smothers was injured while blocking downfield on a 31-yard C.J. Yarbrough reception and did not return to the game.
The Rattlers got the ball first in the second half, needing less than three minutes to light up the scoreboard again on a 9-yard Townsend run to push the lead to 27-10. Cosby sacked Little on third-and-10 on West End’s next drive. During Tanner’s ensuing drive, Cosby lined up in the deep I-formation, got a downfield block from senior lineman Skyler Crumbley and busted loose for a 16-yard touchdown and a 34-10 lead.
West End scored its final points following a frenetic sequence early in the fourth quarter. Tanner cornerback Zakari Shoulders picked off a Little pass at the Tanner 1-yard line. On the next play, the Rattlers fumbled the ball on a failed snap exchange and Junior Tomas pounced on the ball for West End at the Tanner 6, where Little scooted in from six yards out to make it 34-16.
After Tanner cornerback Owen Green snared a one-handed interception, the Rattlers added their sixth and final touchdown. Townsend zipped through for a 95-yard romp with two minutes remaining for the 41-16 final margin.
Dwayne Miller led West End with seven tackles. Little, filling in for the injured Stancil, completed 4-of-12 passes for 56 yards and rushed 12 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Stancil went 7-of-16 passing for 90 yards and one interception.
West End continues region play this week at home against Cleveland.