16First Downs 8
The Metter Tigers will be moving on to the semifinals of the state playoffs following their 28-6 win over Warren County this past Friday night. It will be just the fifth time in school history that Metter has made it to the semifinals.
The Tigers and the Screaming Devils were two very similar teams. Both run the wing T offense and both rely on a stingy defense, but it was Metter’s number one defense in the state that was the difference Friday night.
The Tiger defense only allowed 152 yards of total offense, 139 yards on the ground and just one pass completion for 13 yards. The defense was led by Kaliq Jordan who had 14 tackles. Ethan Oglesby added eight tackles and Taj Hobbs tacked on seven. Cameron Robinson intercepted a pass and Jerrail Lawrence recovered a fumble.
Head Coach Rodney Garvin was most impressed by one stat, “they only scored six [points], which is huge in the playoffs. That is the most important stat. We lead the state in points allowed.”
It was not an explosive night for the Tigers’ offense, but the running game was consistent and controlled the clock. For the second straight game, Metter didn’t attempt a pass all night.
The Tigers spread the load evenly with Danny Cheley picking up 68 yards on 18 carries and scoring two touchdowns. Aaron Collins had 45 yards on 10 carries. Reco Coney added 57 yards on seven carries. Quarterback Taj Hobbs had 58 yards on seven carries and scored a touchdown, and Josh Kelly had 24 yards and a touchdown on his five carries.
The Tigers ended the night with a total of 252 yards on 47 carries.
“Freshman kicker Fidel Esquivel continues to be money for us, making all four extra points,” Garvin said.
Coach Garvin may be understating how “money” Esquivel has been. Fidel has not missed a kick in these playoffs. In fact going all the way back to the ECI game, Esquivel is a perfect 15/15. An often overlooked position that makes the number one team in the state even better.
Things got off to a less than ideal start for Metter on Friday night. The Tigers received the opening kickoff, but during the return the ball was knocked loose and Warren County recovered the fumble taking over at the Metter 32-yard line. No worries though. The number one defense in Class A football responded by forcing a turnover on downs in just four plays.
The Tiger offense took over at the 26. Metter’s first play of the game went ten yards for the first down, but that would be all the offense could muster on the opening drive and they were forced to punt the ball away.
The Tiger offense got things rolling on their second possession. Metter took over at the 39-yard line following a short punt by Warren County and picked up four first downs as they drove the ball 61 yards on eight plays. The drive was capped off by an impressive run by quarterback Taj Hobbs.
Hobbs faked the hand-off up the middle and kept it himself around the right side. He ran through an arm tackle at the 33 and cut it out to the near side numbers.
He was caught at the 20, but he ducked down and slipped through that defenders grasp. He cut back to the inside and somehow shook off two would-be tacklers at the 15. He was immediately grabbed but with the help of two Metter players, dragged the Warren County defender the final 10 yards into the end zone.
When it was all said and done it was a 36-yard touchdown run that electrified the crowd. Fidel Esquivel made the extra point to give Metter the 7-0 lead.
Warren County got on the board on their third possession. They got the ball following the Metter touchdown with about 30 seconds left in the first quarter. Their first play was a 10-yard run for a first down and quarter number one came to a close.
As the second quarter began, the Screaming Devils were driving. They marched the ball down-field on a seven-play, 56-yard drive. Kyree Evans punched it in from seven yards out for the Warren County touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, so the score stood at 7-6.
On the ensuing kickoff Danny Cheley had a big 50-yard kickoff return to get the ball over midfield and deep into Warren County territory, but on just the second play of the drive the ball popped out again and the Screaming Devils recovered.
Once again the Tiger defense responded, forcing a quick three and out to get the ball right back into the hands of the offense. The punt by Warren County’s Ken’Vonte Brinkley was terrible and only traveled four yards, so even after a turnover Metter was still deep in Devil territory at the 37.
This time the Tigers took advantage of the short field and seven plays later found the end zone. This time it was Josh Kelly on a four-yard plunge. Kelly took the hand-off over left tackle and powered his way through a tackle and fell into the end zone for the score. Fidel Esquivel split the uprights to give Metter a 14-6 lead before the game went to halftime.
Warren County got the ball first in the second half, but they were not able to do anything with it. The tough Metter defense coupled with penalties pushed the Devils backwards from the 17-yard line to the nine-yard line before they were forced to punt it away.
Following another short punt, the Metter offense took over at the 31. The Tigers took advantage of the short field once again, this time scoring in six plays.
This touchdown run came from Danny Cheley from seven yards out. Cheley took the handoff around the right side, but as soon as he saw an opening he cut it upfield and banged his way through the defense and into the orange grass for the score. Fidel Esquivel booted the extra point through to give Metter a 21-6 lead.
The Tiger defense forced another three-and-out punt to give the ball back to the offense. Following the punt Metter took over at the 32-yard line.
The Tigers put together a long 13-play drive that chewed up the clock and took the game into the fourth quarter. The Tigers got the ball all the way down to the seven-yard line, but a penalty backed them up to the 19.
Two consecutive negative yardage plays had Metter facing fourth and goal from the 24. Ultimately, the Tigers would turn it over on downs, but the offense had drained valuable time off the clock before giving it back to the Devils.
Warren County would not keep the ball long. On their first play of the fourth quarter they attempted a screen pass. The pass fell incomplete but since it was thrown behind the line of scrimmage it was a live ball.
Jerrail Lawrence made a heads-up play and picked up the loose ball and returned down inside the red zone. The Tiger offense found themselves in another short field situation at the 20-yard line. It only took Metter four plays to find the end zone for their final points of the game. Danny Cheley again had the honors, this time from five yards out. Cheley took the hand-off to the right side and followed a wall of black shirts to the goal line and in for the score. Fidel Esquivel made it a perfect four for four on extra points to give Metter the 28-6 lead.
On Warren County’s final two possessions, needing to score to get back in the game, the Metter defense showed why they are so highly ranked. The Tigers forced a four-play turnover on downs, and on the final desperation pass attempt, intercepted the ball to seal the victory.
We caught up with Coach Garvin after the game to get his thoughts. “We are extremely blessed and fired up to be in the semifinals,” he said. “Our town has turned out for this team. Seeing all these fans out here supporting these kids is what Friday night lights is all about.
“We need everyone in Metter to show up and don’t dare let Irwin County have more fans than us this Friday night. We are one win away from playing for the state championship so let’s keep supporting these kids and showing class with how we win! Go Tigers!”
The Tigers will host the semifinal round of the state playoffs this Friday as they take on Irwin County inside the Jungle. Kickoff is set for 7:30 and the winner goes to Atlanta for the Championship.
Score by Quarter
Play: Taj Hobbs 36-yd run (Fidel Esquivel kick good)
Play: Kyree Evans 7-yd run (2-pt conversion failed)
Play: Josh Kelly 4-yd run (Fidel Esquivel kick good)
Play: Danny Cheley 7-yd run (Fidel Esquivel kick good)
Play: Danny Cheley 5-yd run (Fidel Esquivel kick good)
MHS Kick-Off Returns
WCHS Kick-Off Returns
MHS Punt Returns
WCHS Punt Returns