The Tigers (6-3, 4-2) led by nearly 40 points against host Gordon Central, taking care of business as they went on to win 39-8 in Friday night’s high school football action.
With Cartersville defeating Sonoraville in other region action, Adairsville holds a one-game edge, and the tiebreaker, over the Phoenix (3-6, 3-3) going into the final week of the season.
Eric Bishop, the Tigers’ first-year head coach, knew his team needed to bounce back following its loss last week to those same Purple Hurricanes.
“… It was important for us to come out and rebound from a big game. I just told the kids, we’ve gotta practice against nameless and faceless opponents,” said Bishop of his message to players leading up to the game with the Warriors. “If we’re gonna ever turn the corner at Adairsville, that’s what it’s gonna take, not playing to the competition level or anything like that. We’ve gotta step it up day in and day out at practice, and that’s really where our big focus has been with this team, to make sure we’re practicing at that high level no matter who we got. And that’s when you’re gonna be able to play with the top-tier teams, not only in this region but in the state, so that’s what we’re looking to.
“Offensively, we had a lot of short fields in the half and didn’t get to run some of the things we wanted to, and [we were] trying to force things offensively, early in the ballgame, just to get the work [in],” he continued. “We had a good night defensively. I’m proud of our efforts on both sides of the ball. The kicking game, they did a good job as well.”
Adairsville’s offense had very little real estate to cover in establishing a dominant first-half lead.
Torey Hale’s 56-yard punt return to Gordon Central’s 13-yard line set up Tristin Smith’s 5-yard touchdown run on third-and-2, and another near 50-yard punt return by Austin Harris almost placed the Tigers in even better field position.
However, a block-in-the-back penalty negated a chunk of the yardage, as Adairsville began its second series on the Warrior 30. The drive lasted exactly one play as quarterback Marcus Childers gunned a pass to Brett Gutkowski who covered most of the 30 yards on the score.
Ahead 14-0, it was then the Tigers’ defense that delivered excellent field position to the offense, forcing a fumble as Adairsville recovered at the hosts’ 21.
Sidnee Johnson ran untouched for a 1-yarder to put the Tigers up by three scores at the end of one quarter, and with the Warriors managing just four first downs in the opening half, that lead grew rapidly in the second quarter.
Finally having to start a drive on its side of the field, Childers relished the opportunity for a longer possession, gaining 31 yards on a run that pushed Adairsville into Gordon Central territory at the 25.
A couple of passes moved the ball inside the 10 where Johnson took a handoff up the middle before stretching the ball across the goal line as a defender held onto his legs. A low snap on the extra point forced holder Colin Bearden to improvise, to great results. Bearden, a backup QB, shuffled to his right before reversing field, splitting a few defenders and racing to the corner of the end zone for a two-point conversion and a 29-0 lead with 8:48 to play before halftime.
When the Tigers got the ball back, Childers marched his team 85 yards on 10 plays, with Daelen Harrison bulling his way into the end zone on a 10-yard TD run.
Dakota Hines’ 23-yard field goal put Adairsville up by 39 at the break.
For the final margin, the Warriors scored a fourth-quarter touchdown on Noah Bingiel’s 3-yard run, and they tacked on a two-point conversion on a swinging gate play that was run in by QB Cody Jones.
The Tigers tallied close to 200 rushing yards and just under 100 passing yards, showing an inclination to put the ball in the air for the second straight week.
“It’s something that we’ve been working toward for the last couple of weeks, maybe forcing some plays in [a] down-and-distance situation that you wouldn’t normally call, but it’s [about us] trying to gain some confidence on the game field and [in] a Friday night setting,” Bishop acknowledged. “… We constantly do it in practice, but [we are] just trying to spread the ball around, not trying to be a one-attack type offense, and develop confidence along the way.”
The Tigers turn their attention to Coahulla Creek, which visits Adairsville in next Friday’s regular season finale. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.