11First Downs 13
by John Pate
The Metter Tigers are moving on to the second round of the state playoffs after defeating the Turner County Rebels this past Friday night by a score of 20-19. It was a packed house in The Jungle, and fans were treated to a great playoff game.
The Tigers found themselves locked in a back-and-forth battle that came down to the final minutes of the game. Metter came up with big plays in key moments all night and found a way to win a very tough football game.
Early in the game the Tigers seemed to be outmatched by the size of Turner County, but as the game wore on, it was Metter’s speed that gave them the edge as the Rebels tired and slowed. The Tigers surrendered more points in this game than in any game all season, but in the end it was the Tiger Defense that held Turner County out of the end zone to seal the victory.
Metter’s rushing attack was held in check for the second straight week, only gaining 167 yards on the ground, but once again senior quarterback Taj Hobbs responded by proving he can drop back and throw the ball as well as anyone.
Hobbs was 7 of 10 passing for 91 yards, and he threw two touchdown passes, a 22-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Robinson and a seven-yard touchdown pass to Danny Cheley. Danny Cheley also had a 65-yard touchdown run.
Cheley was the Tigers’ leading rusher on the night with 113 yards on ten carries. Aaron Collins broke the 1,000 yard mark for the season Friday night; he now has 1,022 yards rushing.
The Metter Tiger defense gave up season highs in points scored, rushing yards, passing yards and total yards in Friday’s contest, but they made big plays and got stops when they had to.
Turner County had 130 yards on the ground and 114 yards passing for a total of 244 yards, but on the Rebels’ final possession and with the game on the line, the Tiger defense held firm and kept them out of the end zone to secure the win.
C.J. Donaldson came up with back-to-back big plays to end the Rebels’ hopes. Donaldson swatted a pass out of the air on what was nearly a strip sack on Turner County’s 3rd and 12 play, and he came up with the sack on the Rebels’ final play to force the turnover on downs. Donaldson had nine total tackles on the night.
Ethan Oglesby also had nine tackles. Trey Hall and Kaliq Jordan chipped in seven tackles each, and Danny Cheley came up with a couple of big time pass break-ups in the end zone to keep points off the board.
Turner County started the game off with the ball first after receiving the opening kickoff. They alternated between a wildcat formation with Elijah Stephens taking the snap and running the ball and a traditional shotgun formation with Amarion Blanks taking the snaps.
The Rebels picked up a couple of first downs and moved the ball over midfield before the Metter defense dug in and forced a turnover on downs at their own 43-yard line.
The Metter offense took over, but on just the second play of the drive the snap was fumbled and Turner County fell on the loose ball to take it right back. They continued to alternate between the wildcat and shotgun formations, and this time the Tiger defense was not able to stop them from reaching the end zone.
Turner County would put the first points on the board on a 25-yard pass and catch from Amarion Blanks to Elijah Stephens. Blanks made the extra point to give Turner County the early 0-7 lead.
This was just the second game all season that Metter found themselves trailing an opponent. The Tigers trailed McIntosh County Academy 6-7 at halftime of that game.
As the game moved into the second quarter it was Turner County driving down the field again. On fourth and three from the 38-yard line, Elijah Stephens broke free and found his way into the end zone for the Rebels’ second score of the game. Amarion Blanks missed the extra point, but Turner County extended their lead to 0-13, and the Metter faithful watched in a worried silence.
Metter got the ball back, desperately needing to make something happen before the game got away from them, and they did.
The Tigers picked up a first down and moved the ball midfield. On 2nd and 10 Taj Hobbs scrambled around and tried to make a play, but when he was finally brought down, it was 23 yards behind the line of scrimmage and Metter was facing a 3rd and 33 yards to go.
Offensive Coordinator Eric McNair dug deep into his playbook and called a “Hook and Lateral.” Cameron Robinson caught the pass from Taj Hobbs, and he attempted to lateral it to the streaking Danny Cheley, but he was hit as he tried to toss it. The ball rolled out in front of Cheley and he never broke stride as he scooped it up and ran it back near the original line of scrimmage.
Even after the trick play, the Tigers were facing 4th down and eight yards to go and the punt team trotted out, but it was a fake. Head Coach Rodney Garvin rolled the dice and it paid off. Kaliq Jordan took the snap and ran around the right side and fought his way for the first down.
Metter continued the drive and picked up another first down as they moved the ball down to the 22-yard line. On second down Taj Hobbs dropped back to pass. He threw the ball up to the back left corner of the end zone, and Cameron Robinson made a spectacular catch. Robinson turned on the jets to run the pass down; he dove and somehow hauled in the touchdown pass. Fidel Esquivel booted the extra point through and the Metter Tigers were back in the game. The game would go to halftime with the score at 7-13.
The third quarter would prove to be a key quarter for Metter as they possessed the ball the entire quarter. Turner County did not touch the ball in the third quarter, and the Tigers put together a slow, methodical drive that chewed 10 minutes and 23 seconds off the clock.
Aaron Collins, Danny Cheley and Kaliq Jordan pounded the football down the throats of Turner County. Metter converted on fourth down twice to keep the drive alive. R.J. Lanier had an 11-yard catch on 4th and four, and Cameron Robinson made another diving catch on 4th and 13.
Taj Hobbs connected with Danny Cheley on a seven-yard touchdown pass to cap off the very impressive drive. Fidel Esquivel made the crucial extra point to give Metter the 14-13 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cameron Robinson made another big time play. Robinson has had a knack for fooling the opposition on his kickoffs all season long. This time Robinson kicked a laser off the tee; it hit a Turner County upman and Metter fell on the live ball to retain possession as the game went to the final quarter.
This drive would be cut short, however, as Zavaad Bynum picked off Taj Hobbs at the 35-yard line and returned the ball back around midfield.
The Rebels took advantage of the turnover and the short field. It only took them six plays to find the end zone. Elijah Stephens ran the ball in from 18 yards out to give Turner County the lead right back. The Metter defense did not get down on themselves and stayed on the field to defend against the two-point conversion.
The Tigers prevented the Rebels from converting, and that would prove to be a critical play in the game. With 7:46 remaining in the game, Turner County had the lead 14-19.
Metter got the ball back knowing they had to score or their postseason run would come to an abrupt end. The Tigers answered that challenge in fitting fashion, quick one-play, 65-yard drive.
Danny Cheley took the hand-off around the right side, cut it up the middle and was off to the races. He ran up the far side line; at the 10 yard line he stutter stepped and cut between two Rebel defenders to finish off the highlight reel touchdown.
Metter went for two but was not able to convert, so with 7:26 remaining the Tigers retook the lead.
Turner County’s Montarius Norris really helped his team’s comeback bid with a 41-yard kickoff return on the ensuing kickoff. The return set the Rebels up at the Metter 48-yard line. If the Tigers were to win this game, it would be on the number one ranked defense to do it.
The Rebels threatened, picking up two first downs and moving the ball down to the 20-yard line, but with the game on the line the Tiger defense held strong and forced the turnover on downs with 1:50 remaining on the clock. Metter came out and ran the clock down to triple zeros to seal the victory and to move on to the next round of the playoffs.
We talked with Coach Garvin about the tough game.
“I told the team and community that this Turner County team was not your typical four seed. I am proud of the fight in this team. It looked bleak and we found a way. We made some big things happen offensively when we needed to. We completed a hook and lateral for big yards, successfully ran a fake punt, and Freshman Fidel Esquivel was solid on extra points all night,” he said.
“We obviously gave up more points than we have all year and more total yards, but I would rather win than wring my hands over points given up,” he added. “We made plays when we absolutely had to on defense. Proud of how we kept battling when it looked like we couldn’t stop them. We showed character by coming back 13-0 and then 19-14 late.”
The Tigers will be back at home for round two of the state playoffs this coming Friday against Mitchell County. Kickoff is set for 7:30.
Score by Quarter
Play: Amarion Blanks 25-yd pass to Elijah Stephens (Amarion Blanks kick good)
Play: Elijah Stephens 38-yd run (Amarion Blanks kick no good)
Play: Taj Hobbs 22-yd pass to Cam Robinson (Fidel Esquivel kick good)
Play: Taj Hobbs 7-yd pass to Danny Cheley (Fidel Esquivel kick good)
Play: Elijah Stephens 18-yd run (2-pt conversion failed)
Play: Danny Cheley 65-yd run (2-pt conversion failed)
MHS Kick-Off Returns
TCHS Kick-Off Returns
MHS Punt Returns
TCHS Punt Returns