17First Downs 7
by John Pate
Friday night’s 46-0 win over Claxton secured the Region 3-A championship for the Metter Tigers. This is the second consecutive region championship for the Tigers and the 11th region championship in program history.
The win also means the Tigers move to 9-0 on the season and are one win away from a perfect regular season. Metter has not had a 10-0 regular season since 1988. The head coach at the time was John Glanton, and he led the Tigers to back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 1987 and 1988. The Tigers also remain the number-one ranked team in the state.
Fans were treated to a great game on Senior Night, and the game was closer than the score might suggest.
Claxton had great athletes all over the field and a quarterback with a big arm. They kept the game close early on, and Metter only led 16-0 at halftime, but Head Coach Rodney Garvin and his staff made great adjustments at halftime and blew the game open in the second half.
Metter finished the game with 397 yards of total offense, and all of those yards came on the ground. Claxton was held to just 142 yards of total offense, 75 yards rushing and 67 yards passing.
The leading rusher for Metter was Aaron Collins. Collins had 126 yards on 13 carries and scored three touchdowns. Danny Cheley had 120 yards on six carries and one score and Reco Coney tacked on 98 yards on his 13 carries. Josh Kelly also found the end zone for Metter.
The Metter defense forced their sixth shutout of the season and have only given up 17 points all year. That is an average of just 1.9 points per game. That is the best defense in all of single A football and only one team in the entire state has a better scoring average.
Leading the way defensively was Ethan Oglesby who had 10 total tackles with three for loss. CJ Donaldson had eight total tackles with one for loss. Danny Cheley had an interception and Josh Kelly had a fumble recovery. Jabarie Simmons had three tackles for loss and forced the fumble.
Claxton received the opening kickoff and Shakari Denson returned it 31 yards out near midfield. On the very first play of the game, Denson took the hand-off and was immediately dropped in the backfield for a five-yard loss. The Metter defense forced Claxton three and out to get the ball into the offense’s hands.
The Metter offense got to work quickly. Jerrail Lawrence opened things up with a one-yard run. On the second play for Metter, Aaron Collins took the hand-off up the middle and rumbled across midfield on a 24-yard run. Jerrail Lawrence would move the ball deep into Claxton territory on the next play. He carried the ball 22 yards down to the Claxton 12 yardline. On the fifth play of the drive, Aaron Collins took the hand-off over left tackle and into the end zone on a five-yard touchdown run. Collins stayed on to run the ball in for the two-point conversion to give Metter the early 8-0 lead.
Claxton moved the ball some on their second drive. They connected on a couple of pass plays and picked up a first down. They moved the ball into Metter territory and down to the 32-yard line where they found themselves facing a fourth and nine. Claxton went for it on fourth down and was not able to convert, meaning that Metter would take over on downs at the 28-yard line.
Metter put together a nice drive on their second possession that took the game into the second quarter. Metter drove the ball across midfield and down inside the ten-yard line, but two consecutive penalties pushed them back, and Metter was facing a first and goal from the 27-yard line. Metter tried to pass the ball to make up some of the penalty yardage, but Taj Hobbs’ pass was intercepted by Claxton’s Karon Taylor at the 11.
Claxton went back to the air and was able to move the ball out to midfield before the drive stalled and they were forced to punt the ball back to Metter. Metter took over at their own 13-yard line following the punt. Metter put together a great dive on this possession, highlighted by big runs from Reco Coney and Danny Cheley.
This drive covered 87 yards on ten plays and was capped off by a six-yard touchdown run by Josh Kelly. Kelly took the hand-off to the left side, followed his lead blocker and powered his way across the goal line for the score. Danny Cheley ran in the two-point conversion to give Metter a 16-0 lead with just 31 seconds remaining until the half. Danny Cheley intercepted Claxton’s Hayden Morris to squash any hopes of a quick score and sent the game to halftime.
Metter received the kickoff to start the second half and Devin Smith returned the kick 21 yards to the 27-yard line, but the offense wasn’t able to move the ball and Metter was forced to punt the ball away. Devin Smith got off a great punt to pin Claxton deep in their own territory at the seven-yard line. Metter gave up one big run, before forcing Claxton to punt the ball right back. The big punt and defensive stand worked perfectly to flip the field and Metter took over at the Claxton 31.
It only took Metter two plays to take advantage of the short field. Reco Coney picked up three yards on the first play and Aaron Collins took it the other 28 on the next play. Collins took the hand-off to the left side and he was initially hit at the line of scrimmage. He broke through the first contact and bounced the play to the outside. Once Collins was free it was a foot race to the corner of the end zone, and he won that race. Jerrail Lawrence ran in the two-point conversion to give Metter a 24-0 lead.
Claxton and Metter exchanged punts as the game moved into the fourth quarter. The Metter defense forced a fumble that was recovered by Josh Kelly to give the offense the ball at the 24-yard line. It took just five plays for Metter to find the end zone. Aaron Collins scored his third touchdown on the night with a run up the middle from two yards out. Reco Coney ran for the two point conversion and Metter took a 32-0 lead.
The Metter defense forced another quick three-and-out punt on Claxton’s next possession. Cooper Yanzetich punted the ball from his own 39-yard line and Devin Smith hauled in the kick at the 25. Danny Cheley blocked two guys to spring Smith into the open field, and Devin weaved his way through the Claxton punt team picking up great blocks the entire way and took the kick 75 yards to the house. Danny Cheley ran in the two point conversion and Metter pushed their lead out to 40-0.
Claxton threatened to score on their last possession as Metter began to sub in players for the starters. Tykei Hines and Karon Taylor alternated run plays to move the ball into Metter territory and down to the 20-yard line, but the Metter defense dug in and were determined to protect their shutout. The defense forced a turnover on downs to do just that.
Metter took over at the 25-yard line and needed just a couple of first downs to run the clock out, but on the first play of the drive Danny Cheley took the hand-off around the left side and broke free into the open field. The blocking was perfect on the play and Cheley did the rest, out-running the Claxton defense up the near side numbers and into the end zone on the 75-yard touchdown run. Taj Hobbs attempted the extra point, but it missed to make the lead 46-0 Metter.
Cameron Robinson executed a great onside kick on the ensuing kickoff; in fact, he recovered the kickoff himself to give Metter the ball back. Matt Chicola had back-to-back runs of five and six yards to pick up the first down which allowed Metter to run the clock down to triple zeros and seal the victory.
The final score from The Jungle on Senior Night, Metter over Claxton 46-0.
We talked to Head Coach Rodney Garvin to get his thoughts on the game and on locking up his second region championship as a head coach: “I really thought we played strong in all phases of the game. The defensive pursuit to the ball is something to see.
“The great effort we are playing with is giving us a chance to win each Friday night. Offensively we put up incredible numbers. Our offense is really playing well and getting movement at crucial times, that does not happen without great offensive line play.
“Devin Smith had an incredible night when punting pinning Claxton back a couple of times. He also added a punt return for touchdown from 75 yards out.
“It was a huge region win for us in that we earned the region championship and moved our record to 9-0. We will host a first round playoff game on Thanksgiving weekend. Our kids have fought through multiple issues this season and I am as proud of this team as any I have ever coached for showing toughness through it all.”
Metter will be on the road against bitter rivals ECI next week. Kickoff is set for 7:30.
Score by Quarter
Play: Aaron Collins 5-yd run (Aaron Collins rush, 2-pt good)
Play: Josh Kelly 6-yd run (Danny Cheley rush, 2-pt good)
Play: Aaron Collins 28-yd run (Jerrail Lawrence rush, 2-pt good)
Play: Aaron Collins 2-yd run (Reco Coney rush, 2-pt good)
Play: Devin Smith 75-yd punt return (Danny Cheley rush, 2-pt good)
Play: Danny Cheley 75-yd run (Taj Hobbs kick no good)
MHS Kick-Off Returns
CHS Kick Off Returns
MHS Punt Returns
CHS Punt Returns
J, Lanier 11650