Peabody entered the season on a mission to play a 15-game schedule, which would give the Golden Tide the chance to compete for back-to-back state championships.
So, when PHS trailed 16-7 at halftime to highly rated Meigs County in the Blue Cross Bowl Championship Game played Saturday at Cookeville, the Tide players never flinched. Arising to the challenge, the hometown team proceeded to dominate the second half and score 20 consecutive points en route to the 27-16 win, which completed the season long mission
The perfect 15-0 record was Peabody’s first unbeaten and untied season in program history. The victory also extended the Tide’s winning streak to 23 games.
Peabody scored on its first possession of the game, when quarterback Cooper Baugus connected with tight end Bryce Franks for a 38-yard pass to advance the ball to within striking distance for Jarel Dickson to cap a seven-play, 66-yard drive with a two-yard power play over the left side. Isaiah Hicks kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 8:56 left in the first quarter.
After the PHS defense forced Meigs County to go three-and-out on its initial series, the Tigers earned another possession thanks to Montana Lowe’s pass interception in the vicinity of midfield. MC took advantage of the prime field position to execute a 10-snap, 46-yard drive, which was culminated with Aaron Swafford’s 14-yard TD and two-point conversion on quarterback keepers.
Trenton threatened to retake the lead on its next possession, but a personal foul penalty at Meigs County’s two-yard line handicapped and eventually thwarted the scoring opportunity, when PHS missed a 28-yard field goal.
The Tigers took the momentum and ran with it for an eight-play, 80-yard series, which was highlighted with Swafford’s 19-yard touchdown on a QB keeper. The Navy commitment added the two-point conversion to boost the Tiger’s lead to 16-7 with 2:18 left in the half.
- Maldonado’s interception in the Red Zone, with less than a minute left in the second period, prevented Peabody from trimming the 16-7 halftime deficit.
At intermission, Peabody Head Coach Shane Jacobs reminded the PHS players that they were the better team and the coaching staff made adjustments on both offense and defense.
Coach Jacobs explained, “With the senior leadership we have on this team, our kids are going to play the same, whether they are up 20, down 20 or in a tied ballgame. Trailing 16-7 at halftime, they didn’t flinch. We felt good coming out of halftime. I felt we would play a lot better. Meigs County is a good team and they had a lot to do with what was going on in the first half in terms of our execution. I am really glad we responded at halftime and found a way to make more plays than they did in the second half.”
Coach Jacobs informed, “We are really smart coaches. We said at halftime, let’s just give the ball to our best player and so that is what we did. We gave the ball to Jarel (Dickson) and he is a workhorse up in there and did a great job. We knew we would have to feature him today, because 220 pounds running downhill is hard to tackle. He was the difference in the game. I am really proud of Jarel and proud of our offensive line. Those kids played well all day.”
After rushing five times for 28 yards and one touchdown in the first half, Dickson, an Army commitment, took over Peabody’s infantry game by carrying the football 17 times for 127 yards in the third and fourth frames. His power running set up Peabody’s three second half touchdowns from Baugus, on a 29-yard QB scramble; Jacquez Wilkins, on a five-yard blast and Baugus, on a five-yard keeper. Hicks booted all three extra points to extend Peabody’s advantage to 27-16.
Peabody’s defense shutout Meigs County in the second half, limiting the Tigers to three punts and two turnovers on downs. After keeping the football 15 times for 70 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Meigs quarterback Aaron Swafford was forced to scramble seven times for -13 yards in the final two periods.
Coach Jacobs noted, “After giving up two scores in the first half, we didn’t give up anything in the second half. Aaron Swafford is a really good football player, but we held him in check the second half.”
Led by Dickson and Allen Jones, Peabody’s defense contained and pressured the Mr. Football Finalist into a 2/12/0 passing performance with three sacks. Meigs was limited to 20 plays for a total of 30 yards in the second half.
Dickson and Allen were Peabody’s top tacklers, with 4-3 and 3-3 solos and assists, respectively. Braxton Johnson and Carson Vandiver contributed 2-3 each.
Evaluating Peabody’s 27-16 win, Coach Jacobs praised, “I am really proud of the senior class and that is why we were able to gut one out today. Down nine at halftime, the seniors have played a lot of football and have a lot of experience and so they came out, provided a lot of the leadership and never wavered from what we were trying to do. They are a super senior class and I am going to miss the heck out of those guys. I am so proud of each and every one of them.”
Statistically, Peabody amassed 271 yards rushing and 76 yards passing for 347 total yards and 19 first downs and Meigs County managed 76 yards on the ground and 77 yards through the air for 153 total yards and eight down marker relocations. Trenton’s Mr. Football Award winner Cooper Baugus completed seven-of-16 passes with two interceptions.
Neither team fumbled the football. PHS was penalized on three occasions for 40 yards and MCHS was flagged six times for 56 yards.
Offensive leaders for Peabody were: rushing – Jarel Dickson, with 22 carries for 155 yards and one touchdown; Jacquez Wilkins, with eight runs for 56 yards and one TD and Cooper Baugus, with eight keepers for 51 yards and a pair of six-pointers and receiving – Eli Hammonds, with two catches for 22 yards and Bryce Franks, with one grab for 38 yards.
Reflecting on the season, Coach Jacobs admitted, “We can all finally breathe. I told everybody all offseason that we were not nervous about everybody talking about winning back-to-back state championships. I was nervous the whole time. I have been lying for a year. We were nervous, because we did not want to let anybody down. I think the kids felt it. We did everything we could to make this happen for our town. I think the town and school deserve it. We are happy we were able to do it for them.”