|Winning gives Devils new life |
|Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 6:01 am |
| By MIKE HUTCHENS |
Messenger Sports Editor
An 0-3 start had South Fulton’s season on life support.
The Red Devils are now alive and doing very well, thank you.
SF won for the third straight week, doing so with its most impressive and complete performance to-date in a 35-6 romp over Gleason Friday.
The Redmen dominated the contest in all facets, getting 104 rushing yards and three touchdowns from bruising fullback Cody Tatum while forcing four turnovers with an opportunistic, gang-tackling defense that allowed the Bulldogs but 186 total yards and a meaningless fourth-quarter score.
Their record now square with four regular season games left, a playoff berth is now a realistic possibility rather than the Devils simply playing out the string of a season gone bad from the get-go.
“After we started 0-3, we changed some things,” South Fulton head coach Kelly Spivey said after Friday’s near-flawless effort. “And we’ve had some positives with those changes and the kids have bought into it.
“Tonight was our best game, no doubt. We’re in a good place right now, and we need to continue to build on this game.”
The Devils’ change in offensive philosophy — from the wing-T to the I-formation — was brought about not only by the winless start to the season, but more specifically injuries.
And a ‘Thunder’ and ‘Lightning’ downhill running game that features both the hammering interior talents of the 6-foot, 270-pound Tatum and the repeated bolts around the ends and off-tackle from J.P. Fowler is certainly serving SF well.
Tatum regularly punished Gleason defenders Friday and often carried one or two for extra yardage, while Fowler darted for several big gains — many times behind his brother, Cody, and tackle Zach Vaughn on the right side — while finishing with 73 yards rushing and a touchdown.
The Red Devil defense came up with a pair of huge momentum-changing turnovers at critical junctures, one a Fowler interception at the SF two near the end of the first half when it looked like Gleason was about to halve its 14-0 deficit at the intermission.
Then a fumble recovery by Willie Kneuppel on the second play from scrimmage in the third period after the Bulldogs had immediately moved into Big Red territory swung things back in South Fulton’s favor. Five plays later, JaQuay Garmon and Ryan Prince hooked up on a 56-yard touchdown pass play, meaning that three of Gleasons four turnovers led to SF points.
Kneuppel, a linebacker hobbled recently by injury, led the Redmen with eight tackles. Ryan Moore recovered a fumble of a muffed punt following the game’s first offensive possession that led to the first of Tatum’s scoring plunges, while Tyler Morris picked off Gleason QB Conner Verdell to set up SF’s second TD.
“We knew coming in that protecting the football was going to be key,” Spivey continued. “We got some opportunities and were able to convert. We played some salty defense and we tackled very well.
“Offensively, we were very physical. (Cody and J.P.) are our weapons, and that seven- or eight-minute drive there in the third quarter really started to wear them (Gleason) down, I thought. That was part of the plan.”
Fowler’s 10-yard touchdown midway through the second period capped the first of South Fulton’s three lengthy scoring marches — this one a 12-play, 68-yard drive that ate up nearly six minutes — and made it 14-0 after Chance Hamlin’s PAT.
The Red Devils, who dominated time of possession with 66 snaps to Gleason’s 35, then had a 14-play, 76-yard sequence that spanned more than seven minutes in the third stanza that included a critical nine-yard pickup on fourth down by Fowler that kept the march alive and a 10-yard burst by Harrison Hawks. Tatum bowled his way in from the two at the 1:25 mark to make it 28-0.
Another 14-play series after Gleason had finally gotten on the board in the fourth period milked 71⁄2 minutes off the time piece and methodically pounded the Bulldogs into submission. Tatum carried seven times in that drive — the lone non-run being a 13-yard pass from Garmon to Hawks on a 3rd-and-6. Tatum then capped the march, his impressive stellar individual performance and the impressive SF victory with a two-yard dive with 54 seconds to play.
Published in The Messenger 9.26.11