Colonels impose will for opening win at Adairsville
“All for One! One for All! Colonels!”
That was the chant echoing from the north Bartow hills after the Cass Colonels traveled the fourteen mile journey to Adairsville to tame the Tigers, 34-0.
In a game marked by emotion over the recent deaths of two Cass students, including football player Christian Scrutchins, the Colonels had no shortage of motivation at Tiger Stadium. A “Do It for 84” (Scrutchins’ jersey number) wreath sat on the track behind the bench as a reminder of their fallen teammate. Coaches and players alike had a somber, yet intense gaze in their eyes.
That intensity revealed itself rather quickly on the Colonels’ first offensive series. The chain crew was still finishing their pregame hot dog when quarterback Brett Gaddy connected with Cass’ “Mr. Everything” Laizon West on a 45 yard touchdown by virtue of a screen pass that saw West weave through Tiger defenders and outrun everyone to the goal line. Gaddy did very well in his first start with limited mistakes and a good command of the Wing-T attack.
West, while not large in stature, is one of those players that must be accounted for on every play. He zigs and zags, bobs and weaves and then he is gone. He lines up in at least three different offensive positions for the Colonels – whether he is receiving pitches, passes, handoffs or lining up to run the “Wild Colonel,” West’s palpable quickness is something that head coach Bobby Hughes and offensive coordinator Shane McPherson recognize and utilize as much as possible.
The first half was marked by sustained drives by the Colonels and Adairsville threatening to take control, but finding ways to shoot themselves in the foot. After pinning the Colonels deep in their own territory with 3:47 left in the first quarter, the Tigers looked to take over the chess match with their hard-hitting defense, led by linebacker Dakota Hughes. A punt from the end zone or a turnover would be just what the Tigers needed to tie the score and wake up the crowd.
What transpired was a six-minute drive that resulted in a 41-yard field goal by Anthony Robledo and a gassed defense that could not seem to get the stop desperately needed to shift the momentum. Derrick Maxwell, the Colonel running back that many called “Hammer,” pounded away at the line of scrimmage for six and seven yards at a time. It was nothing fancy, Maxwell was playing smashmouth football and the Cass offensive line obliged him with big holes to run through. Still, 10-0 was not cause for relaxation.
Adairsville’s quarterback, Roger Redd, has an accurate arm and fast legs. Coach Eric Bishop knows this and Redd is often called to roll out and throw across his body to streaking receivers or lingering running backs. On this night, he needed those legs, as the Tigers could not establish the run game for which they are so famous. Redd did all he could to keep plays alive, but the receivers were blanketed most of the night and there were many passes thrown simply to avoid sacks.
The Tigers are a young team that lost a tremendous amount of experience from last year’s playoff run. Just when it seemed the Tigers were marching down the field, a costly penalty or tackle for loss would stall the drive. A long completion to Chad Lowery, a long kickoff return and a tipped Cass punt resulted in no points and a lot of head-shaking on the sideline. Many of these young men are seeing the varsity field for the first time. The potential is there, it is just a matter of continuity, which the Tigers can find before the region schedule begins.
That is not to say that Cass defense had no hand in the shutout. The defensive line was able to penetrate and force the issue, which was often cleaned up by Tripp Breeden. The Cass linebacker was on the attack all night, making plays and basically being a disruptive force from hash mark to hash mark. While Redd completed a few passes, the Colonel secondary never allowed Adairsville’s receivers to get behind them in coverage. It was a stingy night for the boys in blue and it is certain that their mommas were okay with their lack of sharing.
After another touchdown pass from Gaddy to West, the Colonels walked into the locker room with a 17-0 lead and the southwestern sky illuminated with lightning. While the weather held off, the Colonels did not. After an uneventful third quarter of bleeding clock and trading punts, Gaddy found receiver Devin Pritchett on a slant route that went 29 yards for a score to extend the lead to 24-0.
The Adairsville faithful went silent in the bleachers, as the realization of 0-2 began to hit. There was no quit in the Tigers on the field and the green-clad warriors of north Bartow fought to the whistle on every play. There are many “teaching moments” on Friday night and the Adairsville coaching staff spent time patting helmets and encouraging the team that they will live to fight another day.
A bobbled kickoff, a delay of game and a fumble recovered deep in Adairsville territory by Breeden all but sealed the game. Robledo was able to kick another long field goal and Demarco Moore added a 15 yard scamper for a touchdown to end the contest. Hughes and the rest of the Colonel staff breathed a sigh of relief as the first game ended with a resounding win and no serious injuries.
County rival games are always memorable and the takeaway from Friday is simple: Cass took their game plan up to Tiger Stadium and imposed their will. Adairsville, while young and inexperienced, showed flashes of good things to come. Cass now leads the series 20-30-1 with a five-game win streak dating back to 2006.
There is a kindred spirit between folks from Cass and Adairsville, where most of the players and the staff know one another and get along. It is refreshing to see people do battle, then shake hands afterwards as friends. That is what makes Georgia high school football great. Plus, the Adairsville announcer’s running joke of the scores from the Pleasant Valley vs. Kingston and Pine Log vs. Rydal games made everyone crack a smile.
Hopefully, both teams will be staring at a playoff berth come November.