The long-awaited Friday night match up between the Chattooga Indians and Trion Bulldogs went almost as expected. A young inexperienced Indian offense made countless mistakes and the hungry Bulldog veterans capitalized on them.
Chattooga’s offense is replacing massive holes and senior quarterback C.J. Martin looked solid in the pocket, but it was during the process of finding which backs were going to step up that Chattooga stumbled. Senior Dee Price lined up at quarterback and watched a snap sail over his head, turning the ball over to the defense deep in the red zone.
Trion quarterback Jarret Gill capitalized on the mistake, connecting with Cole Phillips on a 15 yard pass for a touchdown. Gill finished the night completing 9 of 14 passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns.
Chattooga put together a nice drive on the next series with Martin breaking loose on a 27 yard run, his longest of the night. Martin finished the half with five carries for 43 yards to lead all rushers. Dee Price redeemed his early turnover with a 21 yard touchdown run to even the score at seven apiece.
With a live kickoff on the following play, the Indians looked sluggish on Martin’s deep kick and Tanner Railey made them pay. Slicing through the center of the field before zipping past Martin, going 95 yards for another Bulldog score. Leading 14-7, Trion’s defense settled in to stifle the Indian’s next attempt at moving the ball.
Martin moved the ball effectively on the first drive but was plagued by dropped passes (four key drops in the first quarter alone) and, after driving to midfield, the Indians were forced to punt. Interfering with the catch led to a 15 yard penalty in favor of Trion and left the Bulldogs with nice field position. Cole Phillips and Logan Blevins combined for a steady run attack, driving the Bulldogs just across the 50 yard line into Indian territory. The young Chattooga team began a melt down process with three penalties, offsides, pass interference and a personal foul that totaled 35 yards and two big first downs for Trion. Jackson Lowenberg had a 2 yard tackle for loss on the drive and Malachi Mack had a hard tackle on Railey to stop a third down conversion attempt only to lose his helmet during the place and get flagged for the personal foul. With a 1st and goal on the 8 yard line, Gill found Hagen Willingham on a short crossing route for another Trion touchdown.
Chattooga’s final possession of the first quarter was quickly ended after a second Price fumble at midfield. The 21-7 lead would hold throughout the second quarter as solid defensive play and miscues on offense affected both squads. The Bulldogs had multiple holding calls and Gill’s receivers dropped a few well-thrown balls and the teams exchanged punts. Chattooga’s C.J. Martin punted three times in the first half for 131 yards and a 43.7 yard average. Trion punted once for 36 yards. Martin went 9 of 19 for 96 yards in the air and one interception in the first half. “I thought C.J. was one of the top performers of the night.” said Hammon. “He got out of trouble multiple times and threw the ball well…punted tremendously.”
Key plays for Trion on the night were the kickoff return by Tanner Railey that took wind out of the Indian sails immediately after Chattooga put together a sustained 80 yard drive and capped it with a score. Railey’s 95 yard run sucked the momentum right off of the Indian sideline.
Gill’s two touchdown passes were well-timed red zone scores that demonstrated to Bulldog fans that Gill will definitively have multiple weapons to utilize this season.
Things to work on for Trion, minor miscues added up with mental errors and penalties that Trion doesn’t usually commit. The energy of a rivalry “game” can be attributed for the personal foul and holding penalties so Trion can be assured that Coach Brown will clean those up over the next two weeks. “I was very proud of our guys.” said Head Coach Justin Brown. “…we played hard, capitalized on some opportunities and made some big plays.”
Key plays for Chattooga included two long runs up the middle behind solid play from a young offensive line. Martin and Dee Price both had runs of 20+ yards, including Price’s first quarter touchdown run. The passing game actually looked very solid for the Indians. The line gave Martin time to repeatedly find targets and Martin delivered very solid throws. The Defensive front, limited big plays on the ground and seemed to control the line of scrimmage and get penetration every play. Quarterback C.J. Martin said, “I thought the game was good for us…now we know what we need to do to be great. We’ve got to work harder than ever before.”
Things to work on for Chattooga obviously center around mistakes. The four key dropped passes by Mosteller and Devin Price were all drive-extending throws and potential game changers. The penalties were devastating. 35 yards on a single drive, including two first downs, were costly. And lastly, the two first quarter turnovers led to 7 Trion points and, in a scrimmage with only a half to play, the two lost possessions were priceless. Offensive Coordinator David Gann said, “Our kids didn’t panic. They didn’t hang their heads… we played hard and kept battling.” Head Coach Charles Hammon recognized that “everything that could go wrong in a ball game, went wrong. And we still stayed in it. We’ve got a lot of things to fix in the next two weeks before Fort Payne.”
Junior Varsity and Freshmen played throughout the second half and both teams saw flashes of brilliance. Trion forced two more turnovers and looked very fast and solid on defense while Chattooga’s freshman quarterback Cash Allen found freshman Timyus Lawrence on multiple throws of 30+ yards. Allen was poised and confident in the pocket, had good protection from the line and, after scrambling for a run and taking a huge hit from Estin Powell, Allen was right back on his feet running to the huddle. Trion’s sophomore Jaxsun Kellet ran the ball with power in traditional Bulldog style and Shane Johnson added flashes of speed while Chattooga’s freshman E.J. Lackey was so dominating in the Indian backfield, he may have earned some Friday night playing time. Lackey ran downhill, around, and over multiple Bulldog defenders, earning the trust of his coaches and the respect of his teammates. “We found out E.J. is a true tailback,” said Coach Gann. “He ran his tail off!” Gann was also excited about Lawrence’s ability to “catch and get open.” Coach Hammon feels that the extra attention during practice that has been dedicated to JV, freshmen and the middle school has already started to pay off for the team.
Both county schools have plenty to look forward to as coaches take the knowledge they gained from the scrimmage into the final two weeks of practice before the regular season begins.
Photos by: Robert McQuese