By Gary Smith
With last week’s 35-0 win over Gibson County in a Region 7-2A matchup, the Peabody Golden Tide successfully completed Phase One in a three-step plan for the state playoffs.
“We broke this season down into three phases. In the First Phase were games one through seven and we just finished that with a 6-1 record. We will take that. Now, Phase Two is here and that includes games eight, nine and 10, with McKenzie, TCA and Adamsville. We have got to go 3-0 in Phase Two and then Phase Three is the playoffs. We will take three days off right here, get recharged and we are going to be a good football team going down the stretch in Phase Two,” explained PHS Coach Shane Jacobs.
From a statistical standpoint, Peabody dominated the game with 331 yards rushing and 132 yards passing for 463 total yards and 25 first downs while limiting Gibson County to only 52 yards on the ground and 46 yards through the air for 98 total yards and five renewed series.
Scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions, the Tide appeared to be rolling toward another Mercy Rule situation at halftime. PHS took the opening kickoff and drove downfield 61 yards in only five plays to score on Noah Halbrook’s 20-yard touchdown sprint around the left side. Zach Grooms kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 9:38 remaining in the initial period.
Two plays later, the Peabody offense was in business again, thanks to Bryce Frank’s fumble recovery at the GC 24-yard line. Trenton capitalized on the turnover when Jarel Dickson powered his way into the end zone from two yards out. Grooms booted the extra point for a 14-0 lead with 8:01 left in the first period.
The visiting squad continued to be the beneficiary of sudden-change plays. Eli Hammonds’ pass interception allowed the Tide offense to start a possession in positive territory at the GCHS 41-yard line. Gibson County’s defense thwarted Peabody on consecutive possessions.
“In the first half, Gibson County came out in something different defensively than what we had seen on film. We had some issues up front. Once we finally worked out those issues and got going, we were fine. We were just unsure of some things up front there about midway through the second quarter when they swapped fronts on us. Their coaching staff did a good job and our guys played hard. We are glad to get out of here with a win,” explained Coach Jacobs.
Even with Gibson County’s defense continuing to play hard, Peabody’s offense got things worked out with an impressive 15-snap, 74-yard drive that was culminated with Cooper Baugus’ five-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Hudson, who ran an out-route into the end zone. Groom’s point-after-touchdown kick sailed equidistant between the uprights for a 21-0 lead.
Halbrook’s interception in the vicinity of midfield made sure that Peabody’s three-touchdown lead held up at intermission.
In the third frame, Trenton’s defense continued to set up the offense in prime real estate to begin drives. After, defensive end Khance Hill batted down a GCHS pass on fourth down to give his teammates starting position at the GC 47-yard line, Dickson highlighted the two-snap series with a 23-yard TD blast over the right side. Grooms launched the extra point for a 28-0 lead with 9:07 left in the period.
After Trenton’s defense relegated Gibson County to going three-and-out, Peabody put the clock in continuous motion when Cooper Baugus electrified the crowd with a 43-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper and Grooms tacked on the extra point for a 35-0 lead.
Courtlen Wade’s fumble recovery with 1:55 left in the game helped Peabody preserve the shutout win.
“Mental mistakes are the things that keep hurting us. We just keep doing things incorrectly that we work on in practice,” admitted Gibson County Coach Cody Finley.
For the game, Peabody completed 12 of 15 passes for one touchdown, and Gibson County went 7/15/2 in the aerial department. Each team fumbled twice with the Tide losing one and the Pioneers surrendering both. PHS was penalized on six occasions for 60 yards, and GCHS was flagged six times for 38 yards. GC’s Henry Todd punted four times for a 39-yard average.
Offensive leaders included: Peabody – Jarel Dickson with 15 rushes for 141 yards and two touchdowns and Jacquez Wilkins with 14 carries for 142 yards; Gibson County – Ozzy Rico with nine attempts for 20 yards; Will Cantrell with nine keepers for 38 yards; and Donte Holder with four receptions for 36 yards. Top defenders for PHS were Eli Hammonds with four solo tackles and one interception; Hunter Hudson with three tackles and a trio of assists; Qua Parks with two initial strikes and three secondary hits including a tackle-for-loss; Khance Hill with two primary contacts, a pair of help-outs including two TFLs, and a pass deflection; and Noah Halbrook with an interception.
Leading tacklers for GCHS were Noah Stafford 16, Colin Warren 9, Hayden McGuire 7, and Kaleb Johnson 6.
Coach Finley continues his plan for improving the Pioneers football program. “Trenton is a better football team than we are. They know that, I know that, everybody that watched the game knows that, but I thought our kids competed. That is the big thing. We have had, maybe one or two games, since I have been the head coach here, where I did not think we competed. The first step, as far as trying to turn a program around, is getting the players to compete. I am not terribly disappointed with that,” acknowledged Coach Finley.
“We have to keep working hard. It hurts when you lose, but you have to keep working to get better,” challenged Coach Finley.
Next, GCHS (1-6) travels to Union City on Friday for a Region 7-2A match-up. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.