However, few teams are able to execute those adjustments as well as the Adairsville football team did Friday night.
After the first half was controlled by Ridgeland, the Tigers dominated the second half en route to a 28-14 opening-game victory at Adairsville High.
“We told the kids all week what we would have to expect, but that we were going to have to make in-game adjustments,” Adairsville head coach Eric Bishop said of the game. “I told the kids and the defensive coaches at halftime, we got better against them every series, and that’s what we’re asking them to do. I told them them they were going to have to come out with a punch in the third quarter, and they did.”
From the opening kick, until the halftime horn, Ridgeland dominated the time of possession battle. Adairsville had the ball for just three minutes in the half and the Panthers ran 27 more plays than the Tigers in the first two periods.
Ridgeland also had 10 first downs to Adairsville’s one and had 197 total yards to Adairville’s 29.
Two hundred twenty-pound fullback Chris Henderson was an important piece to Ridgeland’s success as he ran for 95 yards on 12 carries in the half, slowly eating up yardage in mostly 3- or 4-yard clips.
Meanwhile, Adairsville could not get anything going offensively.
“We have to fix some things on offense but they’re problems that we knew were coming,” Bishop said. “We just have to make adjustments as fast as we can.
Despite Ridgeland’s first-half success, Adairsville led 7-6 during halftime.
The touchdown came on an 85-yard kickoff return from junior Marquel Lane in the second quarter. Lane used an impressive cut to emerge from traffic and head to the sideline where he outran the Panthers’ coverage unit.
In addition to Lane’s run, Adairsville’s defense held tough throughout the first half, bending but not breaking.
DeAndre Applin was vital to the effort as he had eight of his 16 tackles in the first half, a forced fumble to end a promising Ridgeland drive and a 22-yard run on a double reverse for the offense.
And as always, Applin provided some nasty hitting from his free safety position.
“He’s a hitter, man. There’s no doubt about it. He loves to be physical,” Bishop said of Applin. “He’s going to be a great one.”
Applin’s defense remained stout throughout the second half, but the offense began to emerge on the first possession of the second half as well. The Tigers went on a five-minute, 11-play drive, but stalled after a holding penalty and resulted in an interception at the goal line.
Adairville’s second drive would end better, though, as the Tigers went 60 yards in just three plays. Torrey Hale ran the ball in from 11 yards out and was set up by a Jayson Cantrell 36-yard run.
Ridgeland was unable to respond to the score and could not move the ball on offense after the team’s success in the first half. Adairsville held the Panthers to -1 yard in the third quarter on offense.
“It was just different calls,” Bishop said of his team’s halftime adjustments on defense. “It’s stuff that we know how to do.
“We just didn’t know that we were going to have to do it. We can’t cover everything [in practice]. If we covered everything they possibly might do, you won’t be good at what you know they’re going to do, which is the buck sweep, trap, belly, those kind of things.”
The one blemish on the defense’s record in the second half was when Ridgeland scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to tie the game at 14 in the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Undaunted, Adairsville would respond immediately as the Tigers went 67 yards on five plays for the touchdown and a 20-14 lead.
Quarterback Marcus Childers ran the ball in from 10 yards out. On the previous play, Sidnee Johnson ran for 30 yards as Childers gave to Johnson on the read option. The next play, Childers kept the ball on the option and watched as the Ridgeland defense converged on Johnson while the Tigers’ quarterback took it in for the score.
Adairsville then put the game away when Applin snuffed out a fake punt attempt inches from a first down to stop Ridgeland’s drive with seven minutes left in the game. Applin closed quickly and leveled the punter, setting up a two-play, 30-yard drive by the offense to take a 28-14 lead with 6:41 remaining.
Cantrell scored on a 15-yard run that was followed by a two-point conversion on a pass from Childers to Clay Duncan.
The defense then held Ridgeland and Applin finished his impressive day with an interception with four minutes remaining to seal the game.
“The defense really stepped up tonight, playing assignment football against a team that has a very good offense,” Bishop said. “I’m proud of our coaching staff for making in-game adjustments and our players for making it happen on the field.”
Johnson finished with 15 carries for 119 yards on the day while Childers ran eight times for 58 yards. He also went 6-for-9 passing for 58 yards and two interceptions.
Defensively, Daelen Harrison had a strong game at linebacker with 10 tackles, eight in the first half.
Adairsville will move on to play Woodland next week.