Adairsville eclipsed that total by halftime Friday in its road game at Armuchee, going on to win 38-7 while continuing the momentum that had begun a week earlier during the second half of a near comeback in its season opener.
“First and foremost, it starts with the offensive line,” Tigers coach Eric Bishop said. “… Those are some of those guys that grew up last week [against Cass], especially in that second half. One key component is that we want to play as fast a tempo as we can. That’s when the kids excel. … They [Adairsville’s offensive players] got on a roll and we were able to open up some holes.”
The Tigers, whose double slot offense is predicated on the ground game, bludgeoned the Indians for 316 rushing yards in the first half, a performance that included lengthy runs from three of its ball carriers — quarterback Marcus Childers (61-yard touchdown run) and running backs Austin Harris (90-yard TD) and Sidnee Johnson (38- and 45-yard TDs).
Johnson, a sophomore, added a third touchdown, which actually came on the game’s first score. His TD run, from 3 yards out on an inside handoff, capped a 12-play, 60-yard drive that featured a fourth-and-2 conversion near midfield.
On the fourth-down play, Adairsville seemed to catch Armuchee napping as Tristin Smith’s 4-yard gain punctuated the type of tempo and mentality Bishop would like to see his team rely on this season.
“The kids want to go for it every time. They’re always saying, ‘One more play, one more play,’ and you love that mentality in ’em,” the first-year head coach said. “They’re not looking to get off the field. They want to keep the offense on the field and keep our defense on the sideline because our defense does so much for us every night; they bail us out [with] sudden change plays like fumbles and interceptions. So the offense wants to go out there and move the chains. It’s a great group of kids to coach.”
And move the chains the Tigers did. Almost three minutes after Johnson’s initial score, Harris utilized a stutter step — freezing a helpless defender — to outrun the Indian defense for a 14-0 lead at the 4:54 mark of the first quarter.
Johnson tallied Adairsville’s third score of the night just when it seemed like the Indians had finally caught a break.
Following a fumbled snap by Childers on third-and-inches, the Tigers found themselves staring at fourth-and-1. They capitalized on their second fourth-down conversion of the game as Johnson, who finished with 104 yards on six carries, decided that 1 yard was not enough — he needed 37 more. Dakota Hines’ extra point — he had five plus a 31-yard field goal — made it 21-0 in favor of the visitors with less than two minutes remaining in the first.
The bad news continued for Armuchee with Adairsville’s Trey Lloyd recovering the host’s fumble shortly after Johnson’s second TD. The turnover led to Hines’ field goal.
Surprisingly, the Indians marched down the field unfazed on their ensuing possession, with QB Bret Cordle leading his team on a 12-play drive that covered 80 yards. Armuchee twice came up with big conversions, first on Austin Gurley’s 3-yard run on third-and-1 and again on Branden New’s 2-yarder on fourth-and-2 from the Tiger 7-yard line.
A couple of plays later, Cordle — who also had a 40-yard option run during the drive — scored from the 2.
Trailing 24-7 with 5:50 remaining before halftime, that would be as good as it got for the Indians, who watched Adairsville went back up by a huge margin, courtesy of Childers’ run — which featured a good seal block from Blane Bishop that sprung the junior signal-caller loose — and Johnson’s trifecta.
Neither team scored in the second half as both teams called on their backups, with Childers and the other Tiger starters departing midway through the third.
Adairsville (1-1) now turns its attention to visiting Pepperell while Armuchee hosts Gordon Lee. Bishop understands that his team — which had six players on each side of the ball make their first starts in the season-opening, 23-14 loss last week — must use the lessons learned thus far in what figures to be a hotly contested game.
“… Hopefully, we can just build on [our performances] going into what everybody knows is gonna be a real tough game against Pepperell next week,” he said.
Adairsville kicks off against the Dragons at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, in Tiger Valley.