No matter how many times they trailed the Fitzgerald Purple Hurricanes, the Toombs County Bulldogs didn’t stop grinding in their first round GHSA State playoff game in Booster Stadium. The Dawgs trailed 7-0, 14-7, 21-14, 24-14 and 31-27. However, each time they came back to tie or eventually take the lead. Senior quarterback Dalton McBride made two big throws in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs pulled out a 34-31 victory.
Y-101 Locker Room Show
Pictures by J.D. Rogers
With 10:45 to play in the fourth quarter it was third down and 11, from the Fitzgerald 12, and McBride threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Reynolds. The senior normally wears number 54 so he can play on the offensive and defensive line of scrimmage. However, in this game he wore number 41 so he could line up at tight end. Reynolds catch was not only his first touchdown grab of his career, but also his first reception. That touchdown gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 27-24.
Fitzgerald came back and completed a long pass on fourth down and scored on a 2-yard run by Ethan Gordan and now with 5:41 to play the Hurricanes were back on top 31-27.
Toombs County answered with a 62-yard drive and scored the game winning touchdown with 24 seconds to play. The Bulldogs were down to a final offensive play on fourth down and nine at the Fitzgerald 18-yard line. McBride dropped and he threw a pass to D.J. Matthews and the sure-handed senior pulled it in for the biggest and most exciting moment in a game which will go down as one of the most thrilling in the 52-years they have been playing football in Booster Stadium.
The Hurricanes, who were on top 21-14 at half, upped their to 10 with a 22-yard field goal by Alex Martinez. TCHS pulled to within 4 points at 24-20 on a 24-yard run by Keshawn Morgan 2:03 to play in the third quarter. With McBride, his quarterback, blocking down field for him, Morgan was able to weave his way down the Bulldog sideline and into the north end zone for his 19th rushing touchdown of his senior season. McBride tried to run the ball in for 2-points, but he was stopped at the 1-yard line.
Back and forth first half
Both teams failed to score on their first possessions of the game. Fitzgerald scored the first touchdown on a 3-yard run by Talvin Craddock with 5:37 to play in the first quarter to take a 7-0 lead.
The Bulldogs answered that first score roughly three minutes later when McBride threw a slant pass to freshman Chandler Lynn. Chandler bobbled the ball inside the 5-yard line, but he recovered and snagged the ball for his first varsity touchdown. The 15-yard completion, McBride’s fourth TD of the season, tied the game at 7 after Rig Tinoco booted the extra point with 2:39 remaining in the opening quarter.
Fitzgerald regained the lead early in the second quarter on a 3-yard TD run by Ethan Gordan. With 10:30 to play in the first hall the Purple Hurricanes were up 14-7.
The Bulldog defense set up the offense with fantastic field position midway through the second quarter. Two TCHS TFL’s (tackles for a loss) and a short punt gave the Bulldogs a short field. Toombs drove 32-yards and scored on a 2-yard carry by Jeidon Sistrunk. On the play the Bulldog offensive line blocked low and Jeidon found some open air space to fly into the end zone for his fifth touchdown of his senior season.
The Hurricanes went back up by a TD with just 34 seconds remaining in the half. Senior Matthew Howell, replacing the injured James Graham (Virginia Tech commitment) as the starting quarterback, faked a handoff and fooled the entire Bulldog defense. He ran to the left with the ball and scored on a 2-yard run which gave the Hurricanes a 21-14 lead at the half.
TD 5:37 Fitzgerald- Talvin Craddock 3-yard run (Alex Martinez PAT good) 7-0 Fitzgerald
TD 2:39 Toombs County- Dalton McBride 15-yard pass to Chadler Lynn (Rig Tinoco PAT Good) 7-7
TD 10:30 Fitzgerald- Ethan Gordon 3-yard run (Martinez PAT good) 14-7 Fitzgerald
TD 4:20 Toombs County- Jeidon Sistrunk 2-yard run (Tinoco PAT good) 14-14
TD :34 Fitzgerald- Matthew Howell 2-yard run (Martinez PAT good) 21-14 Fitzgerald
FG 5:37 Fitzgerald- Martinez 22-yard kick 24-14 Fitzgerald
TD 2:03 Toombs County- Keshawn Morgan 24-yard run (McBride 2-point run failed) 24-20 Fitzgerald
TD 10:45 Toombs County- McBride 12-yard pass to Kyle Reynolds (Tinoco PAT good) 27-24 Toombs County
TD 5:41 Fitzgerald- Gordon 2-yard run (Martinez PAT good) 31-27 Fitzgerald
TD :24 Toombs County- McBride 18-yard pass to D.J. Matthews (Tinoco PAT good) 34-31 Toombs County
First TCHS Touchdown- 6 plays, 55-yards- On their first possession the Dawgs ran two plays- a run for no gain and a pass which was intercepted. Lynn returned a kickoff to the TCHS 45 and Sistrunk ran the ball three straight times for 1, 8 and 2-yards picking up a first down. McBride ran for 23 and a second first down and then he threw a slant pass to Lynn. Chandler bobbled the ball inside the 5, but he caught it on his second try and scored the touchdown.
Second TCHS Touchdown- 6 plays, 32-yards- A couple of TFL’s including a sack and a very short Fitzgerald punt set up the Bulldogs at the Hurricane 32. After an incomplete pass, Morgan ran for 8, 4 and 17-yards picking up two first downs and taking the ball down to the 3-yard line. Sistrunk ran for 1-yard and then flew the final 2 over the offensive line for the touchdown.
Third TCHS Touchdown- 6 plays, 53-yards- Morgan returned a kickoff to the TCHS 47. Sistrunk ran for 13-yards and a first down. McBride completed an 8-yard pass to Matthews for a first down and then Morgan weaved his way down field for a 24-yard TD.
Fourth TCHS Touchdown- 4 plays, 35-yards- The Bulldog defense and another short Fitzgerald punt set the Dawgs up at the Hurricane 35. McBride threw a pass which appeared to be intercepted. However, Lynn took the ball away from the defender for a 24-yard completion. On third down and 11, McBride threw the TD pass to Reynolds for a 12-yard score.
Fifth Touchdown- 13 plays, 63-yards- A Fitzgerald penalty for pass interference moved the ball to the Hurricane 47. McBride ran for 8 and 2-yards picking up a first down and then Morgan ran for 7 and another first down. On fourth down McBride hit Matthews for an 18-yard completion and the game-winner.
Keshawn Morgan 20 carries for 107-yards (5.4) Long 24 1 TD
Dalton McBride 5 carries for 33-yards (6.6) Long 23
Jeidon Sistrunk 8 carries for 32-yards (4.0) Long 13 1 TD
Dalton McBride 5-for-12 for 77-yards 3 TD’s and 2 interceptions
Chandler Lynn 2-for-39-yards and 1 TD
D.J. Matthews 2-for-26-yards and 1 TD
Kyle Reynolds 1-for-12-yards and 1 TD
Kyle Reynolds 2 for 70 yards (35.0) Long 37