A sloppy scrimmage on a humid Friday night at Adairsville’s Tiger Stadium ended with the Woodland Wildcats celebrating on the field for the first time in nearly two years after a 21-7 win over the hosts.
“It feels good,” Woodland coach Tony Plott said. “The kids played hard, they deserve to feel that, and that’s always good. There were a lot of mistakes on both sides of the ball.”
Even if it was just a scrimmage, Woodland snapped a 17-game losing streak behind three second-half rushing touchdowns—one from starting quarterback Brody Williams as the first string for both teams played well into the third quarter, and two from freshman running back Jimmy Davis as the backups played out the string.
B.J. Roper got Adairsville on the board with a 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but it was answered on the very next play by Davis’ second TD, a 70-yarder of his own, to end the scoring.
The contest was a chance for two county teams coming off disappointing seasons — Adairsville missed out on the state playoffs, while Woodland was winless — to get some answers as they hope to improve in 2017.
However, those answers were few and far between throughout much of a scoreless first half.
Each team lost two fumbles in the half, and the Tigers outgained their county opponents 91-81.
“They played well at times, and we did too, but I don’t think either team was near the consistency that either coach was looking for,” Adairsville coach Eric Bishop said. “When you go this early, those are the kind of things you expect.”
The redeeming grace arrived with a series of bright moments by each teams’ stars that gave fans a glimpse of what better times would look like.
Adairsville’s quarterback Bryce Burgess ducked between two defenders to escape a sack and create something out of nothing, and on defense laid out Woodland’s Titus Jones after a catch.
Jones returned the favor, leveling one of Burgess’ receivers to force an incompletion early in the second quarter.
“I thought our defense was flying around,” Plott said. “We talk about how quick those guys are, and even when they made mistakes, they were fast enough where they could make up for it.”
On offense, Adairsville’s Mason Boswell and Woodland’s Justice Carter traded big plays, a good sight for the coaches that are expecting them to lend explosiveness to offenses.
Outside of those few flashes, though, the first half was marred by fumbles with starters going against starters.
Adairsville split time between Burgess and Boswell at quarterback, and each led one sustained drive.
The closest either team came to scoring was after Adairsville recovered a Woodland fumble on the Wildcats’ 31-yard line midway through the second quarter, but Boswell, playing running back that series, fumbled it right back four plays later with the ball on the 20.
Woodland’s best drive came late in the first half, as senior quarterback Brody Williams led the Wildcats from the 20 to Adairsville’s 33.
That drive was helped by Carter, who took a screen pass 22 yards with some good elusiveness on third-and-16 from Woodland’s 26.
Unfortunately, Woodland went backwards after getting it to the 33, and Burgess capped the period with the big hit on Jones in the flat on the last play of the half.
The game started to open up in the third quarter, as both teams kept their starters on the field.
After a short Adairsville possession to start the second half, Williams kept the ball and ran around right end for 30 yards into Adairsville territory.
After a grinding series of runs, Williams capped the drive himself with a 9-yard touchdown run, keeping the ball, stopping in his tracks to make one defender miss, and bulling through a couple defenders on the goal line.
“Brody, he managed the game, and he helped us at the end of the game when it was time to win it,” Plott said. “That’s what we ask of him. We just want him to manage the game, and then when it’s time to make plays, to make plays.”
Christian Steele and Boswell picked up 19 yards on back-to-back carries to start the next drive, but while Woodland kept better hold of the ball in the second half, the fumbling virus continued to infect the Tigers.
A high snap on the next play was picked up by Woodland in the backfield and, after a false start penalty, Davis took the next snap 44 yards for the first of his two scores.
“We had some personnel issues that forced us to use a lot of different snappers and try to find some consistency in our snap, and when you’re in the pistol offense and you don’t have a consistent snap, it can get ugly real fast,” Bishop said. “We’ll hopefully fix those things and get back to where we need to be.”
With backups finally in, space started to open up even more. Derrick Simmons, in at quarterback for Adairsville, moved the ball on keepers and run-pass options, but another bad snap pushed the Tigers back and forced a turnover on downs.
That was the last chance the Tigers might have had, as Roper and Davis’ back-to-back touchdown runs followed with under four minutes left on the clock and were the last meaningful action.
Both teams will be hoping that next week brings some better execution in the first week of the regular season. Adairsville will be back in action at home against Ridgeland, while Woodland will host River Ridge.