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From Staff Reports
The Greene County Wildcats traveled to Sumrall last Friday with expectations of a triumphant return to the football field after a lengthy Covid-19 induced hiatus.
Unfortunately, the return to the gridiron was anything but triumphant as the Wildcats barely resembled the team that had rushed out to a 2-0 start before being forced into a 2-week coronavirus break. Instead, GCHS struggled in every way one might expect from a team that hadn’t played in several weeks. The Bobcats, who were winless coming into the matchup, looked like a team that was starting to figure things out as they rolled to a 41-14 Homecoming win in the region opener for both teams.
“I didn’t have them ready to play tonight,” first-year head coach Rotch Dungan said after the game. “That was certainly not the way we wanted to start region play.”
“But, it is one game, it is over and we can’t get that one back. I just told the kids to put that one behind us and focus on what’s ahead. We’ve got plenty of football to play and can bounce back from this.”
Rotch said he expected some of the miscues after a long layoff but was surprised by the toll the quarantine layoff had on conditioning for his team. Dungan said he had worked in a little extra conditioning work in practice last week but his team struggled anyway.
The Wildcats did indeed appear to be a step slower than they did in their first two games. While the Bobcats, who really had no momentum coming into the game at 0-4, seemed to get more confident with every snap and by midway through the second quarter were in complete control of the game.
GCHS marched downfield on its opening possession to take an early 7-0 lead. They converted several big third down plays along the way, including a TD pass from sophomore quarterback Jonathan Nicholson to classmate K.J. Miller for the opening TD. Junior Brock Walley added the PAT and the Cats were on top with 5:55 left in the first quarter.
A nice return on the ensuing kickoff gave Sumrall great field position at their own 47. That’s really as far as they needed as junior quarterback John Ford found senior Hayden Barrett on a simple route out of the backfield and Barrett made it look easy as he ran untouched 53 yards for the TD. The PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 5:15 on the first quarter clock and it was pretty much all downhill from there for the Cats.
“They came back with a big play after we scored and that just set the tone for them,” Dungan said. “They started to believe they could win and started playing with a lot of confidence.”
“I have to give them credit. They executed very well and deserved to win.”
After tying the game, Sumrall came up with a big defensive stop to force a GCHS punt and then blocked the kick and took over at the GCHS 35. Ford pushed his way into the endzone a few plays later to push the score to 14-7 with 1:37 left in the first quarter.
By the midway point of the second quarter the Bobcats had extended the lead to 28-7 after back-to-back interceptions on the Cats’ next two possessions. Each time Ford found an open receiver for big plays in the passing game. They took a commanding 34-7 lead with 3:44 left in the first half on a 5-yard TD run by senior South Alabama commit Cole Daniels.
The Wildcats mustered a late drive and pulled to within 34-14 as time expired in the first half. Junior Cam Dunnam hauled in a short pass from freshman Kennen Franks and made a nice run after the catch to earn the TD. Walley added the PAT.
Any momentum the Wildcats took to the locker room was reclaimed by Sumrall in the third quarter. Ford connected with junior Cade Dedeaux for a big pass early in the drive and then turned back to their running game to effectively put the game way with eight minutes left in the quarter. Daniels powered his way into the endzone for his fourth TD of the year.
The Wildcats had a few opportunities to close the gap, but hurt themselves with penalties or mishaps each time. They finished with 326 total yards, including 190 in the running game, but Ford and his teammates were simply better as the Bobcats finished with 451 total yards. Ford had a career game, connecting with six different receivers for 355 yards and three TDs on 20-of-26 passing.
Franks looked good at times for GCHS and completed 8-of-12 attempts with a TD and 124 passing yards on the night. He did throw two costly interceptions, but led the team with 91 yards on 16 carries. Nicholson was 5-of-9 for 66 yards with a TD and an interception.
Miller had 106 yards on seven catches and 14 yards on five carries. Dunnam added three catches for 52 yards and a TD.
No individual defensive stats were available for GCHS.
Aggies visit on Thursday – weather threat forces Homecoming change
The threat of a major hurricane along the Gulf Coast on Friday and Saturday has resulted in Greene County’s Homecoming being postponed until next week and the Wildcats’ game against Forrest County AHS to be moved up to Thursday night.
School officials made the announcement Tuesday.
The move might have been a disappointment to many at the school, but probably not to the football players who are eager to get back out on the field and try to move past the loss to Sumrall.
The Aggies enter the contest with only two official games under their belts after their first two games were cancelled due to pandemic concerns. They started the year with a solid 31-8 win over Northeast Jones, but were dismantled by Poplarville (8-69) last Friday on the road.
Both teams will enter the game looking to redeem themselves after tough losses, but Dungan said he believes his team has moved on already.
“We talked about the loss to Sumrall briefly and then told the guys to put that loss behind them,” Dungan said. “I told them everything we set out in front of ourselves as goals are still ahead of us and achievable. That has not changed.”
“They have responded exactly how I hoped they would as we have had two really good days of practice this week.”
Game time is set for 7 p.m. Thursday. Those unable to attend the game can watch the live broadcast at www.team1sports.com/2RiversBroadcasting.