“It seems like we’ve probably scored 90 percent of our points this year in the third quarter,” said Adairsville coach Jim Kremer, whose team reached double figures for the first time since 2001 and plays Fitzgerald in the second round. “They were trying to take away what we do best, and we were able to get it done. Our kids listened to us at halftime.”
Trailing by four points to begin the second half, the Leopards squandered an opportunity to perhaps seize momentum when running back Dean Ewing was stripped by Tigers linebacker Austin Harrell on Banks County’s first play of the third quarter. Adairsville’s Cody Keim collected his second fumble recovery of the night, setting up the visitors in business from their opponent’s 32-yard line.
Following a 5-yard pickup, Tigers running back Mike Upshaw burst up the middle and outran the Leopards’ defense for a 27-yard score. Dakota Hines’ extra point stretched Adairsville’s lead to 14-3 with 11:12 to play in the third.
The Tigers regained possession shortly when Banks County failed to cross the 50 and had to punt the ball, downing the pigskin at the Adairsville 29. The Tigers began a 12-play drive, which featured three separate third-and-2 situations. Adairsville converted the first such situation from the Leopards’ 46 when Tristin Smith gained four yards. A few plays later, from the 34, Upshaw broke loose for a 20-yard gain. Finally, with the ball at the 6, Smith took the handoff and followed his blocking to the left side and into the end zone. The Tigers led 21-3 with 4:21 remaining in the third.
The lead would stand up rather well as Adairsville’s defense began to shut the lanes that had been so readily available for Banks County quarterback Tyler Hubbard in the first half. With the Leopards needing to do more than run the ball facing a three-score deficit, Hubbard could no longer evade the pass rush by squirting up the middle. The result was an offense that did not manage to cross midfield into Tiger territory in the second half.
“I thought we played hard-nosed defense tonight. Our defensive coaches were doing a good job taking away the things they were trying to do, which is quarterback draw. We started bringing inside pressure and just started mixing it up with some outside pressure as well,” Kremer said.
Adairsville held Banks County to 11 rushing yards in the second half — after surrendering 92 in the first half — while the Tigers got their main running threat untracked. Upshaw finished the game with 120 rushing yards — 112 in the second half. Smith (45) and Cody Kremer (44) also added to Adairsville’s rushing total.
The Tigers matriculated the ball up the field quite well on their first possession of the game. Kremer found receiver Christian Howell on a bubble screen on their first play from scrimmage, which went for 33 yards. A few plays later, on third-and-2 from Banks County’s 28-yard line, Trey Gulledge picked up 13 yards for a first down. Kremer then kept the ball himself on the ensuing play, going up the middle for a 15-yard touchdown to give Adairsville a 7-0 lead with 9:25 to go in the first quarter.
After the Leopards turned the ball over on downs at the Tigers’ 44, Smith gained 26 yards down to the Banks County 30, giving Adairsville another good scoring chance. On second-and-8 from the 28, Kremer freed himself of the Leopards’ first two lines of defense, getting down to the 10-yard line before fumbling the ball away to Banks County’s Malcolm Mitchell.
One turnover beget another, however, as the Leopards’ nine-play drive ended on third-and-11 from their own 35, as Hubbard threw a pass over his receiver’s head and into the arms of the Tigers’ Kaylon Carter, who returned the ball to the Banks County 38.
Despite the field position, Adairsville inched up to the 32 before back-to-back delay of game penalties forced a Jake Powell punt that went out at the 33-yard line.
The Leopards then began a nearly 15-play drive, which needed a fake punt run by Marquaze Maddox, a 15-yard gain, to keep it alive. The drive eventually stalled at the Tigers’ 12, and Ermain Corona kicked a 29-yard field goal to put Banks County on the scoreboard with 4:15 left before halftime.
When Upshaw fumbled to the Leopards’ Jameson Flynn on first down of Adairsville’s next drive, Banks County had the ball back at the Tiger 35 with a chance to take the lead. A pass interference call even aided the hosts’ efforts, moving the ball to the 20, but Hubbard would fumble the ball to Keim on a second-down run that had produced 10 yards prior to the miscue.
Adairsville would take a 7-3 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We come out in the first quarter like a blaze of glory and stuck it down there, I think, [in] four plays. [We] come out in the second series, running down the field and of course Cody had a fumble there. We just started turning it over,” Jim Kremer said. “The bottom line is, when we block — and this is like any other team — when you block well, you’re able to have success.”
The Tigers were able to turn things on in the second half, creating ample running room as they had done earlier in the game. The victory moves the second-seeded team into the next phase of the Georgia High School Association state playoffs, where Adairsville (10-1) will face the No. 1-seeded Purple Hurricanes (10-1), 41-14 winners over McIntosh County Academy on Friday.
Kremer said his team would enjoy the win before getting back to the task at hand — trying to advance as far as possible.
“Obviously, for us to stay in the playoffs, we’re gonna have to play much better, and our kids know that and I know that,” the third-year Tigers coach said. “But, you know what, you can’t take anything away from our 23 seniors on this team. We’re 10-1 right now and I just think we have so much more potential, and they think I’m about half crazy but I really want to see our team reach our potential at some point.
“But we haven’t, so all we can do is keep trying.”
The Tigers travel this Friday to Fitzgerald, which is two hours south of Macon, for a game scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m.
SCORING BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4 F
ADA 7 0 14 0 21
BC 0 3 0 0 3
ADA — Cody Kremer 15-yd run (Dakota Hines kick), 9:25
BC — Ermain Corona 29-yd FG, 4:15
ADA — Mike Upshaw 27-yd run (Hines kick), 11:12
ADA — Tristin Smith 6-yd run (Hines kick), 4:21
First downs 10 11
Rushes-yds 38-231 38-103
Passing yds 33 49
Comp-Att-Int 2-8-0 8-13-1
Total yds 264 152
Penalties 7-55 3-25
Fumbles-lost 4-2 2-2
Punts-yds 3-98 5-143
Rushing — Adairsville: Mike Upshaw 16-120-1, Tristin Smith 5-45-1, Cody Kremer 11-44-1, Trey Gulledge 3-14, Ben Bolander 3-8; Banks County: Tyler Hubbard 12-41, Dean Ewing 12-25, Wes Faulkner 11-23, Marquaze Maddox 2-11, Tanner Thompson 1-3.
Passing — Adairsville: Kremer 2-8-33-0-0; Banks County: Hubbard 8-13-49-0-1.
Receiving — Adairsville: Christian Howell 1-33, Gulledge 1-0; Banks County: Maddox 3-19, Faulkner 1-10, Brenton Ruark 2-9, Homer Carver 1-6, Ewing 1-5.