Some high school football teams rebuild while others reload. That was the story in a scrimmage game played at Savannah State between the Toombs County Bulldogs and the Benedictine Cadets. The Bulldogs who graduated their entire defensive line and linebacker core plus all but one offensive lineman and their entire offensive backfield are rebuilding. Meanwhile, the Cadets which graduated some quality offensive personnel including Travis Blackshear, who scored on a pair of 44-yard runs in the Pit last year, plus deadly accurate quarterback Nick Iannone look like they have reloaded.
Last season an experienced Toombs County gave the Cadets a good battle before losing 28-14 as Benedictine won it’s 22nd game in a row. In the Coastal Empire Benedictine, now playing at the Triple A level in a region with Savannah schools plus Southeast Bulloch, appeared ready to make a run in it’s new surroundings after a 47-0 win over the Bulldogs. Seven of those points were scored in a junior varsity only third quarter.
Toombs County’s best two chances to score came on the Bulldogs’ last drive of the first half and the final drive of the game as the visitors drove down to the 16-yard line before half and the one-yard line on the final play of the game.
Benedictine opened the game with a crisp 12 play, 67-yard drive. New senior starting quarterback Carter Geriner completed three of his five pass attempts on the drive and senior Jakeen Harris scored on a nine-yard run. The Bulldogs hit Harris at the goal line. Benedictine’s PAT failed giving the Cadets a 6-0 lead with 7:54 to play in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs went three and out on their first possession and then Harris scored again- this time on special teams. He returned a Dawg punt 55-yards for his second TD. He picked up two big blocks as he caught the ball and then ran by a Bulldog and headed down the sideline avoiding a diving tackle by newcomer Caleb Hartley inside the 10. This time the Cadets connected on their extra point as they made it 13-0 with 6:18 left in the opening quarter.
Toombs County ran three more plays on it’s second possession which resulted in two incomplete passes and a quarterback sack. Add in a four-yard punt and the Cadets were set up for a third first quarter score at the Dawg 21. However, Raekwon Powell recovered a Benedictine fumble at the TCHS five-yard line.
Toombs ran three plays and punted the ball to Bulldog 42. One the first play Cadets had a 42-yard TD pass called back on a holding penalty. So, the Cadets had to wait until early in the second quarter to score their third touchdown. Senior Jaylien Duncan (5-9, 195 pounds) scored on an eight-yard run and with the PAT is was 20-0 Benedictine with 11:49 left in the second quarter.
Once again the Bulldog offense failed to pick up a first down and a shanked punt which actually traveled a yard backwards set up the Cadets again nicely at the Toombs 32-yard line. Two snaps later Benedictine ran a misdirection play and junior Rico Powers scored on a 23-yard run to increase the Cadet lead to 27-0 with 9:33 still left in the second quarter.
On their fourth first half possession Toombs finally picked up a first down. Senior Demetrius Owens ran for nine and three yards on back-to-back plays for a first down and then junior quarterback Trey Cloud completed a pass to senior receiver Ashlee Ashley for 11-yards and a second first down. Those two combined on a six-yard completion on the next play and then on a fourth down and five pass, Toombs came up one-yard short of picking up a third first down.
Benedictine countered by ripping off a seven-play, 68-yard drive and Harris scored his third touchdown on a four-yard run. The big play of the drive was a 39-yard completion from sophomore quarterback A.J. Dixon to Trent Broadnax. With the extra point the Cadets were up 34-0 with 2:36 left in the half.
TCHS picked up a third first down on a pass interference call against the Cadets. However, the Bulldogs muffed a punt snap and gave the ball back to Benedictine at the Dawg 24. Senior running back Carter Morgan scored on a 27-yard run on a third down and 13 play to end the varsity scoring in the scrimmage. The PAT pushed the Cadet lead to 40-0 with 32 seconds left before the halftime break.
Powell returned the kickoff 29-yards to the TCHS 42. One the first play from scrimmage Cloud threw a lateral to Ashley at the Bulldog 36 and from near the sideline the wide receiver threw the ball to the center of the field where it was caught by sophomore Chandler Lynn at the Benedictine 35 for a gain of 23-yards and a first down. Cloud completed a three-yard pass to Ashley and then threw a pass to him down at the two-yard line and once again the Cadets were called for pass interference with 4.6 seconds remaining. The half came to an end with a Benedictine quarterback sack.
The third quarter was played by the junior varsity teams with a running clock. The Cadets recovered a Bulldog fumble and then eventually scored the final touchdown of the night on a four-yard run.
Highlights for the TCHS JV included a completed first down pass from freshman quarterback Josiah Smith to sophomore wide receiver J.D. Myers and a couple of runs by Octavious Robinson which netted a second first down.
The varsity teams came back out in the fourth quarter and they also played with a running clock. Cloud was hit while running the ball and it popped loose and Toombs had to go back to it’s own five-yard line to recover it. On third down and 30, Cloud threw an 11-yard completion to Powell and on fourth down Cole Graham punted the ball to the Bulldog 41.
The Bulldog defense stopped Benedictine on three plays with Lynn making a tackle for a three-yard loss forcing Benedictine to punt for the first time.
The Bulldogs took over at their 11-yard line and three running plays netted a first down. Owens ran for one and eight-yards and Hartley for two more. Cloud scrambled for 11-yards and then the lefty threw a 43-yard completion to Powell, who caught the ball at the Benedictine 27 and ran it down to the 17-yard line. Cloud and Ashley connected on a 12-yard completion to the five-yard line and with the running clock TCHS had two more plays to try and score.
An incomplete pass led to the final play of the game and Harley ran down to the one-yard line where he was tackled as the horn sounded to end the scrimmage.
Next week the Bulldogs will open up the regular season against Single A Twiggs County with a 7:30 kickoff in Booster Stadium in Lyons.