By Gary Smith
Peabody’s 30-0 shutout win over Memphis Mitchell in the first round of the TSSAA Class 2A State Playoffs played last week at Trenton was a game of momentum.
The Peabody defense dominated the game and held the Tigers’ offense in check until the Tide offense recovered from three turnovers in the first half and began making “splash plays” to score touchdowns.
PHS relinquished the football due to turnovers (two fumbles and an interception) on its first three series of the game.
“I don’t know what made us come out and turn the ball over three times in the first half. That is disappointing and frustrating, but I am proud of the way we continued to battle through those turnovers. What was big is that, when we do something like that offensively and we shoot ourselves in the foot, we can turn around and play defense and get those momentum stoppers and that is huge for us. On one hand, you are irritated with the turnovers, but on the other hand, you are extremely proud of the way we sell out. We are going to bow our neck and get a stop right here defensively,” explained Peabody Coach Shane Jacobs.
While the Peabody offense struggled, the Tide defense picked up the slack by forcing a three-and-out on the first series, retaking the ball on JeNevee Robinson’s interception and drawing a penalty to negate a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Late in the first quarter, Peabody finally lit up the scoreboard on Noah Halbrook’s 57-yard touchdown sprint on a stretch play through the left side. Zach Grooms kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
Peabody was able to establish momentum going into halftime thanks to Robinson’s spectacular highlight film catch-and-run for a 42-yard touchdown. Quarterback Cooper Baugus threw the long pass to the senior wide receiver, who was running a go-route along the home team sideline. Grooms booted the extra point for a 14-0 lead.
“JeNevee’s play in the first half was huge. That is what really got us going. We were stagnant on offense, turning the ball over. JeNevee goes up and takes the ball away from the kid in the air. It was an incredible play. You have got to have your best players step up and make plays like that to get that momentum and energy going. So that was the play of the game and that was what really got us going,” acknowledged Coach Jacobs.
In the second half, Trenton continued to play dominating defense and improved offensive execution by taking better care of the football. PHS added to its advantage (16-0) at the 8:06 juncture of the third frame, when senior defensive lineman Brantley Whitwell harassed the Mitchell quarterback into an intentional grounding penalty and a safety since the play occurred in the Tigers’ end zone.
On the ensuing series, Courtlen Wade’s interception at midfield was another sudden change momentum swing play for PHS.
The home team wrapped up the 30-0 win with touchdowns contributed by Jarel Dickson on a 23-yard burst through the right side and Halbrook on a 28-yard TD on a keeper out of wildcat formation. Grooms’ kicks split the uprights to make the final score 30-0.
Statistically, Peabody amassed 340 yards rushing and 81 yards passing for 421 total yards and 17 first downs and Mitchell was limited to -34 yards on the ground and 80 yards through the air for 46 total yards and five renewed series. Baugus completed 7 of 11 passes, with one interception and one touchdown and the Tigers went 19/34/2 in the aerial department.
PHS lost all three fumbles, and MHS did not drop the ball. The home team was penalized on seven occasions for 65 yards and the visiting squad was flagged 11 times for 67 yards.
Leading rushers included Jarel Dickson, with 15 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown; Noah Halbrook with six attempts for 95 yards and a pair of TDs; Baugus with 11 scrambles for 52 yards; Hunter Hudson with five tries for 51 yards; and Jacquez Wilkins with seven totes for 35 yards.
Top defenders included Brantley Whitwell and Bryce Franks with five tackles and one assist, including a tackle-for-loss each and Jaime Hernandez, Qua Parks, Eli Hammonds and Marvin Cliff, Jr., with five solo tackles apiece. Sack leaders were: Whitwell, with two and Hernandez, Cliff and Franks, with one each. JeNevee Robinson and Courtlen Wade recorded interceptions.
Next, Peabody (9-2) hosts Adamsville (7-4) in a second round state playoff at Walter Kilzer Stadium on Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m. The two teams will be playing for the second time in two weeks. PHS won the first match-up 34-20.
“It is going to be a completely different game. We made some plays against Adamsville that may or may not be there in two weeks. They made some big plays against us that may or may not be there. We have to approach this game like we haven’t played them. We have to get the game two weeks ago out of our mind. The most important thing we are going to have to do this week is not be mentally weak about what happened two weeks ago and understand the importance of preparing the way we need to prepare to win the ballgame,” explained Coach Jacobs.