Winning not out of style to SF

Winning not out of style to SF
Winning not out of style to SF

South Fulton’s JaQuay Garmon tosses to Chance Barnes during Friday’s victory.
Ironically enough, Kelly Spivey wasn’t interested in looking good at South Fulton’s homecoming.
It was more important to the Red Devil coach that his team beat Gleason 26-12 Friday night than any style points earned.
“We looked a little tired, and it certainly wasn’t real pretty,” the SF skipper said after his club nonetheless improved to 3-2 with a victory that was vital to any playoff hopes down the road. “I don’t know if it was the humidity or what, but it just didn’t look like we were in shape.
“The big thing, though, is that we’re 3-2 right now, the same as we were last year when we made the playoffs. We have to take them one game at a time, and we need every win we can get — no matter what it looks like — if we’re going to make it back to the postseason.”
The Redmen, who’d lost five straight regular season games vs. Gleason before Friday, mounted a pair of long, time-consuming scoring drives in the second half to snap that skid and match a first-round playoff victory recorded over the Bulldogs in 2009.
Fullback/linebacker Cody Tatum made plays to first open, then close out South Fulton’s win.
Tatum intercepted a Connor Verdell pass on Gleason’s third offensive snap, returning the pick 16 yards to the Bulldogs’ two-yard-line. On the very next play, Tatum bulled his way into the endzone for the first of his two short touchdown plunges to give the Devils a lead before the game was three minutes old.
Tatum later capped a methodical, 15-play, 91-yard drive that ate up nearly eight minutes of the fourth quarter and essentially put a capper on the SF triumph with another two-yard paydirt dive on fourth down. The touchdown, with just 1:15 to play, accounted for the final margin.
“Cody made a great drop and a great interception there early, and we’d hoped that early score would snowball and we’d get on a roll,” Spivey said. “It didn’t happen, but it was still a good start for us.”
The length-of-the-field scoring march that sealed the South Fulton’s triumph was the second such of the second half — following a 68-yard, 10-play sequence in the third period after the Bulldogs had pulled to within 14-12 after a 39-yard touchdown pass from Connor Verdell to Austin Perry on the opening series after the intermission.
Most telling was that every one of the 25 plays in South Fulton’s two TD marches in the second half was a rush.
Chance Barnes, J.P. Fowler, Khiry Lewis and quarterback JaQuay Garmon each had critical runs during the two sequences that included conversions on four third-down plays.
Barnes punctuated the first of those scoring drives with a five-yard scamper over the goal line at the 5:44 mark of the third period with his 18-yard pickup that was the biggest gainer of the march.
The second of Tatum’s scoring dives salted the game away, with runs of 16 yards by Barnes, a 26-yarder by Lewis, a 17-yard scramble by Garmon and Tatum’s 11-yard gainer highlighting the Devils’ systematic series.
Gleason, playing its first game since the tragic accident suffered by freshman lineman Drake Damesworth who underwent a second surgery earlier Friday after breaking a vertebrae in his neck last week, responded to SF’s first score by converting one of two Devil turnovers into their first TD.
Bruising fullback James Owens ran five yards to the endzone early in the second frame, though a botched PAT kept the Redmen in front 7-6.
Easily the prettiest play of the night came when Garmon threw a deep ball in the direction of Fowler, who skied high to take the pigskin away from a Bulldog defender and then cruised in for a 50-yard touchdown just four plays after SF had received the ensuing kickoff. Tatum’s point-after made it 14-6.
Linebackers Taverius James and Willy Kneuppel had 11 tackles apiece to pace a Red Devil defense that turned back a potential game-tying Gleason scoring drive at the South Fulton 10 early in the fourth quarter with a fourth-down stop of Verdell by the middle of the line.
Tatum was in on eight stops, while Fowler had seven and a second interception for the unit.
“Defensively, I was mostly pleased — even though we didn’t tackle well. We had the big stop there in the fourth quarter when it looked like they might be going in and have a chance to pull even,” Spivey added.
And the coach said beating District 14A brethren Halls this coming Friday, is his and the Devils’ lone focus as the season begins its second half and SF its playoff push.
“I know it’s a cliché, but we’re taking them one at a time, it’s all we can do,” Spivey concluded. “We can’t afford to look ahead to anyone.
“Being 4-2 after next week would be a nice place to be, though.”
Game notes: The two teams met at midfield for prayer for Damesworth following the game and $850 in donations was collected at the game to be given to the family. At least one roadblock in Gleason and other fund raisers were set to be held over the weekend in various rural West Tennessee towns. Damesworth is reportedly set to be moved to Atlanta as early as sometime this week to begin rehabilitation after Friday’s second surgery.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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