By Gary L. Smith
Judging from Gibson County’s 14-10 upset win over Trenton Peabody, last week, Coach Cody Finley has put the fight back into the Pioneers.
Entering his third season as mentor, Cody’s primary objective was to reestablish toughness and fight in his team. Improving every week, the Pioneers battled Peabody for the entire game to earn the program’s fifth win over the Tide.
While Coach Finley termed the win as an overall team effort, much of the credit goes to the defense, which controlled the line of scrimmage and intercepted three passes in the secondary.
A key to the game was that the Gibson County defense limited Peabody to only a field goal during three possessions inside the Red Zone. In fact, the outcome of the matchup was determined on the final possession of the game, when the Gibson County defense thwarted Trenton on a 17-play, 70-yard drive. Backed up to within the shadows of the goalposts, the GCHS defense bowed up and fended off three plays from the vicinity of the 12-yard line. Noah Halbrook’s fourth down catch at the one-yard line gave the home team first and goal-to-go from the one-yard line with 1:27 left to play.
Toughening up, Gibson County met the challenge by swarming four running plays from the one-yard line to secure the hard-fought 14-10 win.
“I just can’t say enough about the goal line stand. We were just fighting and hanging on for dear life. Two years ago, we wouldn’t have done that. I am just super proud of these guys,” praised Gibson County Coach Cody Finley.
Another important series occurred early in the game, when quarterback Cooper Baugus’ 18-yard touchdown scramble was nullified due to a holding penalty and Peabody was forced to relinquish the football via punt.
After exchanging the football on seven consecutive punts, the two teams swapped interceptions by Gibson County’s Camron McMackin and Peabody’s Isaiah Jackson.
Jake Patterson’s aerial theft set-up a 71-yard touchdown sprint by Ozzy Rico. PHS linebacker Jacquez Wilkins tackled quarterback Payton Lamberson short of the goal line on the two-point conversion attempt, but Gibson County had managed to take a 6-0 lead at halftime.
Regrouping at intermission, the Peabody offense retaliated with a two-snap, 68-yard scoring drive, which was highlighted with Baugus’ 65-yard touchdown on a QB keeper. Isaiah Hicks kicked the extra point and Trenton took its first lead at 7-6.
Bryce Franks’ forced fumble and recovery at the GC 23-yardline eventually set-up Hick’s 22-yard field goal for a 10-6 advantage at the 7:40 juncture of the final frame.
On the ensuing series, Gibson County surprised the Peabody defense with a 64-yard touchdown on a double pass from halfback Cayden Wylie to Camron McMackin. With the addition of Will Cantrell’s two-point conversion run, the visiting squad took the lead (14-10) for good, midway through the final stanza.
“We took a few chances. We were playing with house money. Nobody thought we had a chance to beat Peabody, nobody. Even our fans up there did not think we were going to beat them. They hoped we might, but they didn’t think we were going to. We just played super well tonight, our defense, anyway, and our offense did enough. This win boosts us into next week.”
Trenton threatened to score on its last possession, but the Gibson County defense provided the goal line heroics to preserve the win.
“It is disappointing to get down on the goal line and have first down from the one-yard line with four downs to score and we don’t get in. This is a really tough loss. We have to play better than what we did tonight. Sometimes, you have to look at the other team and tell them congrats. Now, we see how we are with adversity. We have not faced a lot of adversity this season. I know this group will come back and respond and we will learn from this loss and be better from it,” explained Peabody Coach Shane Jacobs.
Statistically, Peabody registered 229 yards rushing and 76 yards passing for 305 total yards and 17 first downs and Gibson County tallied 123 yards on the ground and 100 yards through the air for 223 total yards and seven renewed series. The Tide completed eight-of-17 passes, with three interceptions and the Pioneers went 6/12/1 in the aerial department.
PHS did not drop the football and GCHS relinquished its only fumble. The home team was penalized on four occasions for 30 yards and the visiting squad was flagged twice for 14 yards.
Offensive leaders included: Peabody – Baugus, with 19 keepers for 130 yards and one touchdown; Jarel Dickson, with 19 carries for 90 yards; Eli Hammonds, with four receptions for 52 yards and Noah Halbrook, with three catches for 13 yards and Gibson County – Ozzy Rico, with 12 rushes for 88 yards.
Top defenders included: PHS – J.C. Eubanks, with seven tackles and one assist; Bryce Franks, with two primary strikes, five secondary hits, one forced fumble and one recovered fumble; Isaiah Jackson, with 2-1 and an interception; Ja’Darren Easley, with 1-4 and Dickson, with 1-3, including a tackle-for-loss and GCHS – Colin Warren 11 tackles, Austin Fletcher 8, Jake Patterson 6, Guy Moffat (sack) and DeAndre Snow 5 each; Noah Stafford (sack), Kaleb Johnson and Hayden McGuire 4 apiece and McMackin three tackles, two interceptions and a pair of pass deflections..
After an open date this week, Peabody (6-1) continues a slate of three region games against McKenzie, TCA and Adamsville. The Tide hosts McKenzie on October 12.
Examining the region, Coach Jacobs noted, “The region is going to end up shaping up like it did last year. Losing to Gibson County, this year, is kind of the same deal as when we lost to McKenzie, last season. I hate it for our kids and the coaches. The kids wanted to win. They played hard. It just wasn’t our night.”
Coach Jacobs informed, “We will give these guys the first three days of Fall Break off. Like every other team, seven games into the season, we are banged-up a little bit. The break will give us a change to kind of heal-up and come in Thursday and get back to some fundamentals. During the bye week, we will work to get better in some spots and come ready to play in two weeks against McKenzie.”
Next, Gibson County (6-1) hosts Union City in a region match-up on Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.