By Steve Williams
Gibbs clinched a playoff berth Friday night, but what satisfied its head football coach more than anything was getting a win. It had been over a month since Brad Conley’s team had tasted victory.
Fresh off an open date, the Eagles had a feast, romping past young and winless South-Doyle 39-14 at Ernest Whited Stadium to snap a three-game losing streak.
“I’m sure there were playoff implications tonight,” said Conley. “When you’ve been a few weeks and not won a game, you really don’t get caught up in the playoffs. You try to get better and win a game.
“It had been Sept. 11 since we had won, so I’m just excited about us winning a region game. If we play well and win, the playoffs take care of itself.”
Big back Dalton Rodgers, recovered from a shoulder injury he suffered against Halls two weeks prior, rushed for three touchdowns to lead the way. The 5-11, 240-pound junior finished with 109 yards on 17 carries, with 72 yards coming in an impressive second quarter showing.
Quarterback Zack Beeler and backs Logan Wolfenbarger and Dillion Thomas added one TD apiece as Gibbs improved to 2-2 in Region 2-5A and 4-4 overall. The Cherokees fell to 0-4 and 0-8.
Gibbs got the job done on the ground, with 11 different players combining to carry the ball 49 times for 381 yards, an average of 7.8 yards per attempt. The Eagles had two pass completions for 32 yards.
“It was good to see Rodgers come out and run the ball hard and the guys did a good job up front,” said Conley. “Really, all of our backs ran well. It was a balanced effort.”
Conley’s crew will host Carter on homecoming night this Friday. South-Doyle will be on TV Thursday night against visiting Farragut.
A 70-yard breakaway by Beeler on an option play on Gibbs’ second possession produced the game’s first score. Cornerback Seandre Scott couldn’t catch him.
An errant S-D snap on fourth down gave the Eagles the ball back and Rodgers rambled up the middle 17 yards for a TD on his first carry of the game. It came with 41.8 seconds left in the opening quarter.
South-Doyle struck back when 6-3 sophomore wideout Jeremiah Bias snagged a 42-yard touchdown pass from Braden Anderson. Allen Kidd’s PAT kick cut the gap to 12-7.
Following a fumble recovery by Gibbs’ Noel Leyva, Rodgers got the give on five out of six plays and capped a 44-yard march with a 16-yard run as Cherokee defenders looked like they wanted no part of him. Wolfenbarger’s kick made it 19-7.
The lead ballooned to 33-7 in the third quarter as Rodgers powered in from the 4 and Wolfenbarger raced 49 yards through a huge hole on the right side of the offensive line.
Thomas tacked on a 1-yard TD plunge after the Eagles recovered a muffed punt midway through the fourth quarter to make it 39-7.
The Cherokees’ Scott went around right end on an 11-yard TD run to close out the scoring after Anderson passed 31 yards to John Doster.
Gibbs reserves mopped up the last four minutes.
Ton’Quez Ball, a freshman, stood out in the loss, picking up 52 yards on 12 carries and catching five passes for another 25 yards.
Gibbs junior Demarcus Hight turned in the game’s most spectacular play as he intercepted a pass and zigzagged his way back 84 yards before going down at the South-Doyle 1. A block-in-back penalty at midfield, however, negated a big play.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” said South-Doyle head coach Clark Duncan. “But our kids are working hard. They’ve not given up. We’re practicing hard.
“It’s a lot of youthful mistakes and things that can be corrected. It’s just going to take time and experience. There’s going to be some great football played at South-Doyle High School. It’s just a matter of time.”