By Gary Smith
Faced with a must-win situation to qualify for the state playoffs, Peabody followed a formula that has kept the Golden Tide in the state ranking for the entire season.
Failure to momentarily deviate from the formula cost Peabody a 22-20 upset loss at dangerous McKenzie the previous week. Posed with the possibility of not qualifying for the state playoffs for the first time since 2009, the Tide rose to the occasion and demolished Trinity Christian Academy 61-21 in a homecoming game played at Walter Kilzer Stadium.
The Peabody coaching staff formulated an excellent game plan and the players executed the directions to dominate the match up, both offensively and defensively. The Tide offense rolled up 577 yards of total offense, and the defense limited the Lions to 209 total yards with three turnovers.
Trenton’s stout line paved the way for running backs to rush for impressive numbers. Sophomore Noah Halbrook accounted for 275 yards of total offense and was responsible for five touchdowns. He logged six rushes for 76 yards and two touchdowns, six receptions for 178 yards and two scores, and threw a 21-yard touchdown pass. Sophomore workhorse Jarel Dickson carried the football 25 times for 172 yards and a trio of six-pointers. Closing out the game in relief, hard-running sophomore Jacquez Wilkins rushed 10 times for 88 yards and one TD.
“Our guys came in extremely focused and hungry. Trenton is a tough town to lose in, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. There are a lot of expectations of our guys and coaches in this town and that is a good thing. I love the expectations and I want the town to hold us accountable when we don’t play well, and they did that this past week. We heard a lot of negativity about different things and so we sort of had our backs against the wall all week long. We knew what was at stake and we knew we had to play well. And the thing about it is, obviously, you have guys like Noah (Halbrook) who came in and stepped up and did some things tonight. Jarel (Dickson) ran the ball hard. Our formula for success, when we have been successful, was there tonight. We have got to continue with that formula and continue to do the things we do well,” explained Peabody Coach Shane Jacobs.
Starting well, Peabody scored touchdowns on its first three possessions to take a 20-7 lead at the conclusion of the initial quarter. Halbrook contributed the first two scores on a 16-yard sweep and a 71-yard hitch pattern pass from quarterback Cooper Baugus. Jarel Dickson added the third on a one-yard power play.
Peabody defenders Courtlen Wade and Je’Nevee Robinson helped keep the Lions’ offense caged, with a fumble recovery and interception, respectively.
Near the end of the first half, Baugus and Halbrook added to their highlight film with another 71-yard touchdown pass. The sophomore duo perfectly executed an out-and-go pattern for the touchdown along the sideline in front of a large homecoming crowd. Zach Grooms kicked three-of-four extra points for a 27-7 lead at halftime.
For all practical purposes, Peabody reestablished momentum and put the game away early in the third frame when Khance Hill recovered a fumble at the TCA 13-yard line to set up Dickson’s two-yard TD burst. The extra point was blocked, but the home team had elevated its lead to 33-7.
While the Jackson-based team was scoring single touchdowns in the third and forth quarters, Peabody countered with 28 more points en route to the 61-21 win.
Scoring touchdowns were Robinson on a 21-yard reception of a halfback pass thrown by Halbrook; Dickson on a 40-yard rumble; Halbrook on a 14-yard scramble; and Wilkins on a 49-yard sprint. Grooms executed on his final three kicks.
Statistically, Peabody rushed for 363 yards and passed for 214 yards and 19 first downs. Trinity managed 129 yards on the ground and 80 yards through the air for nine renewed series. The Tide completed 10 of 14 passes for three touchdowns, and the Lions went 8/20/1 in the aerial department.
PHS did not fumble the football, and TCA relinquished two-of-three drops. The home team was penalized on five occasions for 55 yards, and the visiting squad was flagged twice for 21 yards.
Top defenders included Bryce Franks with four solo tackles, three assists and one tackle-for-loss; Marvin Cliff Jr. with four primary strikes, two secondary hits, two TFLs and a quarterback sack; Qua Parks with four initial contacts and a pair of help-outs; and Jaime Hernandez with two tackles and five assists, including two TFLs and a forced fumble. Khane Hill and Courtlen Wade contributed fumble recoveries, and Je’Nevee Robinson intercepted a pass.
Next, Peabody (7-2) hosts Adamsville in a crucial Region 7-2A match up on Friday at Walter Kilzer Stadium. Senior Night recognition will start at 7 p.m., and kickoff will follow at 7:30.
“This week was a must win and next week is a must win. That is the way we want it and we are fine with that,” acknowledged Coach Jacobs.