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Devils’ identity change not good

Devils’ identity change not good
Devils’ identity change not good

South Fulton’s Tyler Nolan dives for a tackle during the Red Devils’ loss on Friday.
Will the real South Fulton football team please stand up?
Looking nothing like the squad that started 6-0 and was state-ranked just three weeks ago, the Red Devils continued their late-season downward spiral with a third consecutive loss after being drubbed 36-6 by Gleason Friday night.
SF’s second straight lackluster effort likely cost the Redmen (6-3, 3-3) any chance they had of qualifying for the playoffs and penning a rags-to-riches story after winning just once in each of the two previous years. The Devils will now instead close their once-promising season at McKenzie Thursday — a night earlier than originally scheduled — at 7 p.m.
Gleason (5-4, 4-2), meanwhile, greatly resembling the South Fulton club of just a few weeks ago while playing with both great intensity and confidence, won its third straight game and solidified its own postseason chances with the lopsided win.
Only a Greenfield upset of a suddenly-hot Lake County team that stunned eighth-ranked McKenzie Friday would keep Gleason out of the playoffs.
The Bulldogs’ three-headed backfield monster of Zach Wallace, Shadow Roney and Tyler Verdell ran roughshod over and around the Redmen, each rushing for more than 100 yards for the third straight week.
Wallace (146 yards, four touchdowns) and Roney (136 yards, one TD) regularly gashed the Red Devil defense around the ends, while Verdell (100 yards, two 2-point conversions) provided a bruising presence up the middle that kept SF honest.
SF gave up 445 yards in all while managing just a season-low 81 yards themselves. The Devils didn’t gain a first down until midway through the second quarter and moved the chains just five times in all the entire night. All totaled, five of South Fulton’s seven possessions ended after three-and-outs.
First-year coach Kelly Spivey was understandably dejected with both the effort and result of his team afterward.
“I’m not used to this,” said the coach, who was the defensive coordinator at highly-successful Lewis County prior to taking the SF post last winter. “Some of our kids quit on us tonight. That’s not acceptable.
“At some point, everybody on this team has to be accountable and look at themselves in the mirror. We made great strides early in the season. We’ve taken equally giant steps in the wrong direction the last couple of weeks. I can motivate them for about two minutes. From then on they’ve got to pick it up on their own and have some self-motivation. And they don’t have any right now.”
As bad as the convincing final score was, it could’ve been worse. Gleason had three first-half touchdowns negated by penalty flags.
Still, the Bulldogs were in complete control with a 20-0 halftime lead.
Wallace returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to the Red Devil 29 before Roney then darted his way to the endzone from 26 yards out on the second snap of the game.
Wallace swept to the outside for TD runs of six and 20 yards in the second period with quarterback Nicky Spain carrying a keeper in for the two-point conversion following the first of those touchdowns.
Gleason continued its dominance in the third quarter with scoring drives on each of its possessions, the second after South Fulton muffed a kickoff.
Wallace capped a 10-play, 55-yard march with a nine-yard scamper halfway through the third stanza, then finished off his stellar individual performance with an eight-yard play around right end that finished a 42-yard, seven-snap sequence. Verdell accounted for both conversions, one on a pass from Spain and the other on a run with 2:12 showing in the frame that made it 36-0.
The Devils showed their only sign of life after the 35-point mercy rule was invoked and with the clock running continuously.
Jonathan Avent and Chance Barnes each had nice runs to begin what would be a 53-yard TD drive, with Avent later turning a short Corbin Hawks pass into a 10-yard gain on fourth down that kept the march alive inside the red zone.
Avent finished off the 11-play series by skipping over right guard for a 10-yard score with 6:37 left that accounted for the final margin.
Avoiding a second straight shutout was of little consolation to Spivey.
“I really don’t know what to say,” the coach continued. “One of the reasons I’ve always loved football is because I believe it teaches you life lessons. When things don’t roll right, you have to still find a way to get things done.
“We obviously have a lot of work to do to change the football landscape and mindset around here. Bear Bryant used to have a saying that he made practice so tough that if a kid was going to quit, he was going to do so in practice and not in a game. That will be our philosophy in the offseason. We’ll put them through the ringer and see who’s left standing.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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