By Gary Smith
Playing the season opener before an overflow crowd, Peabody successfully accomplished its game plan, which resulted in a dominant 34-14 win over rival Milan. The Golden Tide exploded for 35 first half points to establish an insurmountable lead at intermission.
The game served as an opportunity for Peabody to develop team depth that will be required, if the Tide is destined to make another deep playoff run and earn back-to-back state championships.
According to Peabody Head Coach Shane Jacobs, “We talked about the need to have a lead coming in at halftime. We knew depth was going to be an issue because of how many guys we play. We really didn’t want to go in at halftime up seven, tied, down seven or anything like that. We really felt like we needed to have a lead, so we threw everything we had in the first half, because we wanted to be up 14 to 21. Once those cramps hit, it is tough on us. We only play 18 to 20 players. We would like to play more as the season gets going longer. We want to get guys some rest and play more guys. Right now at the beginning of the season, it is just so hard to get some of the younger guys ready.”
Thursday night, Peabody was ready from the start and it showed both offensively and defensively. In addition to the 35 points produced offensively, Trenton’s defense limited Milan to -22 yards rushing and only one first down (by penalty) in the entire first half.
Peabody’s offensive play calling kept the Milan defense off-guard all night. On a fourth down-and-short situation, the Tide caught the Bulldogs’ defense by surprise, when quarterback Cooper Baugus connected with wide receiver Eli Hammonds for a 44-yard touchdown pass. Isaiah Hicks kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead at the 9:20 mark of the first quarter.
Just as stifling as the temperatures after the rain, Peabody turned up the heat offensively with four touchdowns in the second period. Scoring touchdowns were: Baugus, on a six-yard QB keeper (11:10); Noah Halbrook, on a 27-yard stretch play (9:19); Jarel Dickson, on a 43-yard screen pass from Baugus (2:10) and Dickson, on a one-yard blast (:43). Hicks negotiated all four extra points.
Milan managed to avoid the Mercy Rule and a continuously running clock by tallying touchdowns in the second and third frames. Fisher Jones executed a scoop-and-score fumble return for a 40-yard touchdown and Sullivan Burke added the extra point to help the visiting squad trim the deficit to 21-7 midway through the second period.
Devante Herron broke free for a 20-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper and Burke tacked on the extra point for a 35-14 score at the end of three frames.
Weathering the heat and Milan’s late effort, Peabody closed out a scoreless fourth quarter to win 35-14.
In response to Peabody playing before the one of the largest crowds in program history, the coach acknowledged, “Our support and both crowds were awesome. It was great night for high school football and playing a healthy rival like Milan. I love playing those guys. Both teams get each other’s best. It is just a great atmosphere.”
Statistically, Peabody amassed 206 yards rushing and 166 yards passing for 372 total yards and 16 first downs and Milan managed 44 yards on the ground and 78 yards through the air for 122 total yards and nine first downs.
Tide quarterback Cooper Baugus completed 10-of-12 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns and Bulldogs’ signal caller Devante Herron went 4/10/1 in the aerial department. PHS relinquished both fumbles and MHS surrendered its only drop. The home team was penalized on seven occasions for 55 yards and the visiting squad was flagged five times for 35 yards.
Offensive leaders included: rushing – Cooper Baugus, with 22 keepers for 79 yards and one touchdown; Jarel Dickson, with 12 carries for 57 yards and one TD; Noah Halbrook, with five runs for 52 yards and one six-pointer; Jacquez Wilkins, with five attempts for 13 yards and Drequan Vaughn, with one try for three yards and receiving – Eli Hammonds, with three receptions for 68 yards and one touchdown; Halbrook, with three catches for 16 yards; Dickson, with two grabs for 62 yards and one TD and Bryce Franks, with two catches for 20 yards.
Top defenders included: Logan Whittemore, with five solo tackles, three assists, one QB sack and one tackle-for-loss; Wilkins, with four primary strikes, three secondary hits, two QB sacks and three TFL; Hammonds, with three initial contacts, a trio of help-outs and a TFL; Dickson, with 3-2 tackles and a TFL; Carson Vandiver, with two individual tackles, a pair of assists and a 38-yard interception return; Rafe Hannah, with 1-5 tackles and Connor Gaitlin, with 1-3 tackles.
Next, Peabody (1-0) hosts Memphis Sheffield on Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
“We have to get healed up. Anytime you play Milan you know you have been in a fight and you are going to be sore. Tomorrow, we will come in, watch film and take it easy on the guys and get into the weekend, get healed up and come back Monday and try to get better. We made a 1,0000 mistakes. We have to do a lot of things better,” challenged Coach Jacobs.