It was a perfect night for football this past Friday night as the Metter Tigers hosted the Union County Panthers in the second round of the GHSA State Playoffs. A great crowd was on hand to witness what would turn out to be a defensive battle that Metter would win 14-7.
The Tiger defense was up against a tough test against Union County’s spread option attack that has racked up yards all season long, but Metter was up to the challenge. The Tigers were able to limit the Panthers to just seven points and 209 yards of total offense. The Metter secondary played a great ball game, never letting any of the Union County receivers get behind them, knocking down pass after pass, and hauling in three interceptions. Another key to the win was the Tigers’ physicality. Defensively, the Tigers were laying the lumber and the Union County receivers were not eager to catch the ball and take the hit. As a result they were looking for defenders on every play and not catching the ball.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was the offensive line leading the way. The ‘O’ line did a great job winning the battle in the trenches and controlling the time of possession. Their great blocking led the way for Aaron Collins’ best game this season, picking up 170 yards on 32 carries, and was the key to victory.
Friday night’s game got underway with Metter winning the coin toss and electing to receive the ball. Ahmod Collins would haul the kick-off in at the 21 yard line and return it 18 yards out to the 39 yard line. The game plan on offense was clear: pound the line and run the clock. The rushing attack was led all night by Aaron Collins and he carried the ball 10 times for 54 yards on the opening drive. Antwan Coney and Taj Hobbs mixed in a two yard run each and the Tigers picked up four first downs as they drove the ball down inside the five yard line to the three. The Union County defense was able to make a stand at the goal line and forced Metter into a fourth and goal from the three. The Tigers decided to kick a field goal, so Zach Davis came out to attempt the 20 yard kick. The kick was low and the Panther defense was able to get a hand on the ball and block the attempt. It would be a turnover on downs, and the Union County Panthers would take over at their own six yard line.
This would be Union County’s only possession of the first quarter, just as planned. The Panthers were mixing the pass and ground attack well and moving the ball, picking up two first downs and getting the ball out to the 43 yard line. On third and six, quarterback Pierson Allison dropped back to throw, but his pass was picked off by Metter’s Taj Hobbs and the ball was back in the hands of the Tiger offense at the 44 yard line.
The Tiger offense came back out and went right back to work on the ground. Aaron Collins was leading the charge again with Antwan Coney and Ahmod Collins adding in great runs of their own. The Tigers picked up three first downs and drove the ball all the way down to the ten yard line when the first quarter came to an end.
The Tigers were facing second down and seven yards to go from the ten yard line as the second quarter got under way, and just one play into the second quarter, Ahmod Collins found his way through the defense and into the end zone for the game’s first score. Zach Davis was not able to hit on the extra point try so with 11:47 to go in the second quarter the score was 6-0, Metter.
Zach Davis would stay out on the field to kick it back to Union County. Davis booted a squib kick through the Panther return team, and Kanon Hemphill caught the kick off of a high bounce and immediately took a knee at the 31 yard line where the Panther offense would take over.
The first play of the drive was a handoff to fullback Jonah Daniel, and he picked up 13 yards and a first down to move the ball out near midfield at the 44. The Metter defense would tighten up there and not allow Union County to even cross the 50, forcing a punt from the 48 yard line. Quarterback Pierson Allison also handles the punting duties, and he got off a 30 yard punt that rolled dead at the 22 yard line. The Metter Tiger offense would have it there.
This drive would not be as successful as the first two for the Tigers. On play number two the Tigers were flagged for a chop block moving the ball half the distance to the goal back to the 13 yard line and putting the offense behind the chains. Taj Hobbs completed his first pass on the night, a 10 yard hook up with Cole McCranie, but it wasn’t enough to pick up the first down, so the Tigers would be forced to punt on fourth and seven. Hobbs would handle the punting duties on the night for Metter, and he punted the ball 39 yards over midfield and down to the Panther 36 and the Panther offense would have it there.
Union County would come out looking to establish their offense and get the ball moving. They went almost exclusively with the pass on this drive. Pierson Allison would throw the ball seven times connecting on every other pass, completing three passes for 19,13, and 3 yards and picking up two first downs. The Panthers had moved the ball down to the Metter 27 and were looking to score. Facing a fourth down and five to go, Allison threw the ball towards the end zone, but Metter’s Walker Dollar was there to intercept the pass. The second interception on the night would give the ball back to the Tiger offense at the five yard line.
The Tigers took the ball over in the shadow of their own goal line, needing to drive 95 yards to score. Aaron Collins started things with a four yard run to get the ball up to the nine yard line, and on second down Ahmod Collins broke free on a 26 yard run to get the Tigers away from their own end zone. On second and five from the 40, the snap was bobbled and the ball hit the turf. Metter recovered the loose ball but lost three yards on the play, and the drive stalled there. Metter would elect to punt the ball on fourth and two and Taj Hobbs would be called on to punt again. Hobbs got off a 36 yard punt that came to rest at the Union County 21.
The Panthers would take it over there, and the drive started with a four yard pass from Pierson Allison to his big receiver, Kyle Morlock. Fullback Jonah Daniel added five more yards on a run to bring up third and one. On third down the Metter defense got to Daniel in the back field and dropped him for a four yard loss forcing the Panthers three and out as they would punt the ball away from the 25. The punt by Pierson Allison traveled 26 yard to midfield and was downed at the 49 yard line.
With the clock ticking away towards half time the Tigers tried to pass the ball for a quick score. Taj Hobbs tried to connect with his running backs on back to back wheel routes, but both passes fell incomplete. Following the short one yard run by Antwan Coney, the game would go to halftime with the Tigers leading 6-0.
The second half would start with Metter kicking the ball off to Union County. Zach Davis’ kick would be fielded by Kanon Hemphill, but he would only be able to return it five yards before being tackled at the 41 yard line. Pierson Allison and his offense would come back out looking to get something going against the tough Metter Defense. Allison would connect with his fullback Jonah Daniel on the first play for a ten yard pickup and a first down, but his next three passes would be incomplete, bringing up a punt on fourth down and ten. Allison punted the ball 40 yards all the way down to the Tiger nine yard line where Metter would take it over.
The Tigers would go back to the play calling that worked all night, Aaron Collins leading the ground attack with Antwan Coney and Ahmod Collins adding big runs along the way. The Tigers drove the ball 91 yards on 14 plays, picking up five first downs on this, their only possession in the third quarter. The drive was capped off by an eleven yard touchdown pass from Taj Hobbs to running back Ahmod Collins. The Tigers would try for a two point conversion, and Aaron Collins ran the ball in from three yards out to convert, making the score 14-0 with 2:14 to go in the third quarter.
Zach Davis would come out to kick the ball back to Union County and his kick was hauled in at the 21 yard line by Sawyer Drake. Drake returned the kick 13 yards to the 34. The Panther offense would come back out needing to move the ball. Pierson Allison handed the ball off to fullback Jonah Daniel on back to back runs of three yards, then hit Daniel with a nine yard pass to pick up a first down. Allison kept the ball himself on a designed run for three yards to get the ball out to midfield. Following an incompletion, Jonah Daniel moved the ball over the 50 on a four yard run. The horn would sound to end the third quarter, and entering the fourth quarter the Union County Panthers were facing a fourth and three. The Panthers would go for it on fourth and Pierson Allison went to his favorite target, Sawyer Drake, to pick up five yards and the first down.
Union County had the ball inside Metter territory at the 39 looking to get their first points. A one yard loss sandwiched in between two incompletions brought up fourth down and 11 yards to go. The Metter faithful with their cow bells and shakers got to their feet and got loud, knowing this was a big spot in the game. As Pierson Allison dropped back to pass on fourth down, it was Region 2AA player of the year TJ Davis in the back field to drag Allison down for a sack and a 13 yard loss.
The turnover on downs would give the ball back to the Metter offense at the 47 yard line. The Tigers would come out looking to run the ball and drain the clock. Aaron Collins anchored the attack once again and the Tigers picked up a couple of first downs, but false start penalties held the drive up. The Tigers got the ball down to the 21 yard line where they were facing a fourth and five. The offense stayed on the field to go for the first down, but Antwan Coney was hit just a yard shy of the line to gain, and the Tigers would turn it over on downs at the Panther 17 yard line.
The Union County offense would take over knowing their 2019 season was hanging in the balance and needing their big playmakers to make something happen. Pierson Allison and the offense would speed up the tempo on this drive, hoping Tiger defense was running out of gas. The faster paced offense worked on this drive as Allison threw the ball eight times, connecting on five of those passes, and Jonah Daniel ran the ball three times including an 11 yard touchdown run to punctuate the drive. Mason McCombs was good on the extra point kick, and following the 11 play 83 yard drive, the score stood at 14-7 with 3:22 to go in the game.
The Panthers came out to try an onsides kick, hoping to get the ball right back. The kick went through the first line of the Tiger kick return team and was fielded by return man, Danny Cheley. Cheley was able to return the ball nine yards to the 49.
The Tiger offense was hoping to pick up a couple first downs and run the final three plus minutes off the clock, but the Union County defense was not ready for their season to be over. They were able to slow up the Tiger rushing attack and bring up a fourth and two. The Tigers would punt the ball away and trust the top defense in AA football to get the stop. Taj Hobbs got off a nice punt that traveled 37 yards and pinned the Panthers down on the six yard line.
Union County took over with their playoff lives on the line. Pierson Allison took to the air trying to get the Panthers out of the hole on one long pass. He threw three straight incompletions to bring up fourth and ten. The pass on fourth and ten also fell incomplete, but a flag came out and the Tigers were called for a pass interference. The penalty gave the Panthers a first down and new life on the drive. The clock was ticking away and the Panthers were trying every play in their play book, but the Tiger defense was not budging. Union County picked up an additional first down and moved the ball out to the 33 yard line. On third down and ten to go, Allison threw down field trying to get the ball in behind the Tiger defense, but Austin Carlyle intercepted the pass at the 47 yard line. Carlyle returned the ball seven yards before he slid down to prevent any chance of a fumble.
Taj Hobbs and the offense would trot back out and line up in the victory formation. One kneel down would seal the victory and send the Metter Tigers into the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. The final score from The Jungle, 14-7.
Head coach Rodney Garvin commented after the game, “Offensively, last night we had 51 carries for 292 yards. Taj Hobbs was two of four passing for 20 yards, totaling 312 yards offense.
Aaron Collins had 30 carries for 169 yards, and Ahmod Collins had nine carries for 75 yards and two touchdowns. He had a run from 10 yards in the first half and a catch from 11 in second half and converted the two-point extra point on a short run.
Defensively, we held a high powered offense to one touchdown and played a bend-but-don’t-break style of defense.
Taj Hobbs again came up big for us with nine total tackles and a big interception. Kaliq Collins, during the game, was moved to linebacker from defensive end as an adjustment and contributed seven tackles and a quarterback pressure. Sophomore Danny Cheley broke up multiple passes; Senior Walker Dollar played well again with a big interception. And Senior Austin Carlyle sealed the victory with a late interception.
I am so proud of how this 2019 team has proved over and over again how hard they will fight. We are blessed to be 11-1 and in the state quarterfinals.
Up next is a very, very good Brooks County team. Tremendous speed and a physical football team. We need all Metter Tiger fans at home on Friday night to support our Tigers.”