Booster Stadium in Lyons, home of the Toombs County Bulldogs, and the Pecan Grove in Claxton are separated by just 25.5 miles and yet the two schools have competed against each other in football just 12 times since Toombs County High School opened in 1987. The Bulldogs have won seven times and the Tigers have taken five games. Six of the TCHS wins came in a row under head coach Mark Stroud. The Tigers have won two out of the last three and the Dawgs won the last match up, a 48-16 in a cross over game between Region 1-AAA and Region 3-A Division A to end the 2015 season.
Since that game only the middle school teams have played each other. The young Tigers beat the Bullpups 35-14 in a game which kicked off at noon time on a Saturday in 2016 and last season the Pups had to make two trips over to Claxton to earn a 12-8 win as they finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak. The first attempt to play the game barely got underway before a wind and rain storm hit Bell Memorial Stadium.
So, on Friday at 7:30 p.m. the 2-1 Bulldogs will play host to the 2-0 Tigers in a final non region game for both teams. Coverage on Y-101 Radio and streamed on Mixlr will begin at 7 p.m. with coach Randy Callahan.
Claxton scrimmaged two opponents
The Tigers and Jenkins County played to a scoreless tie in a preseason scrimmage on August 3rd in the Pecan Grove and then the following Friday Claxton won the battle of Evans County defeating Pinewood Academy (GISA) 33-6.
The Tigers are off to a 2-0 start
Claxton has opened the regular season with two straight home wins and the last time the Tigers started 2-0 was back in 2011 when they knocked off Tattnall County 47-35 and nipped Treutlen 22-21. Both games were played on the road.
Claxton opened the regular season on August 17 and the Tigers defeated Tattnall County 14-6 on two second quarter touchdown throws by quarterback Karon Taylor (#1 5-8 160 sophomore).
Two Tigers hit the Tattnall quarterback and jarred the ball loose. Claxton recovered at the Warrior 45. A six-play drive ended on a three-yard TD catch by Devon Hagan (#20 6-1 185 pound senior) on fourth down. The Tigers recovered another Tattnall fumble at the Tiger 26 and that led to a four-play 74-yard scoring drive. Taylor threw a deep ball to Shakari Denson (#18 5-10 160 sophomore), who caught the ball at the 10 and ran it in for a 54-yard touchdown completion.
The Warriors scored a third quarter touchdown on one-yard run by Mason Howard and in the fourth quarter the Tigers killed the clock with a six-minute drive.
Against Bryan County, the Tigers opened the game with a 75-yard kickoff return by Denson. He caught the ball near the left hash and ran straight across to the middle of the field. That is where, with a burst of speed, he broke away and by the time he hit his 45 all 11 Redskins were chasing and none of them were able to get within five-yards of him on his way to the end zone.
The Redskins went three and out on their first possession as the Tigers recorded three TFL’s (tackles for a loss). Claxton went on an 11 play, 52-yard drive and scored on fourth and goal at the two. Big Deoveon Howard (#44 5-9 230 junior) was inserted in to the backfield and he scored the TD.
After another three and out by BC, Jorge Gonzalez (#59) kicked a 45-yard field goal to increase the Tiger lead to 17-0 in the second quarter. Taylor helped set up the three-pointer with a 22-yard scramble.
The Redskins scored their only points with 3:37 to play in the first half. A Taylor pass was high and tipped by the receiver to a safety who returned it 80-yards. Bryan County missed the PAT. At the half Claxton had a 17-6 lead.
The Tigers scored a second special teams touchdown on a 34-yard punt return. Four Redskins had a shot at making a tackle at the 20.
Gonzalez closed the scoring with 32-yard field goal.
Bulldog head coach Richie Marsh talks about the Savannah Christian and Claxton games
Last Friday night the Bulldogs were chasing Savannah Christian on the scoreboard from the start. The Dawgs trailed 7-0, 14-0, 14-7, 21-7, 28-7 and 35-7 at half. “We are not an offensive scoring machine, so anytime when you get down like that you are going to be challenged mentally,” coach Richie Marsh said. “I thought our offense grew up a little bit in that game. That is one of the positives I take out of that. We weren’t ready for the kickoff. We weren’t ready from the time we got off the bus. Silly things were taking place that don’t take place on a team that is ready to compete and that’s on me. The way we chased that first kickoff (48-yard return) which we knew was going to happen exactly like it happened, we didn’t have them well enough prepared to defend it and they returned it down to our 26-yard line and that is already bad. They did have to work to get it in there, but they got it in the end zone and we are suppose to have a different mentality down around the goal line. So, bang there is seven (points). Then they get the pick-6 and when we threw the interception we chased it like we did the kickoff and now you are 14 down. I don’t think we started playing Toombs County football until we came out after the second half. We have got to understand that we are a football team that every play matters. Coach (Nick) Saban says there are three or four plays in every football game that are going to be a deciding factor and that’s against two evenly matched teams. You don’t chase the ball on 14 plays or you don’t chase an interception, you are going to find yourself down against a good football team and Savannah Christian is a good football team. We knew that going in. Obviously that didn’t get communicated well enough to our team, again that’s my responsibility. We just didn’t do a good job all the way around.”
The Bulldogs rushed for 141-yards at Savannah Christian and threw for 204. “We moved the ball, but it’s like I have always said about a spread team. I remember when we played Charlton County years ago at Valdosta. I told the defense I don’t care if they pass for 459-yards as long as they don’t cross the goal line we are OK. They passed for a lot of yards, but they didn’t cross the goal line (in 2003 Valdosta beat Charlton 38-14). We did throw the ball well at times, but you have got to be able to run it and be successful every time you reach the red zone. Whether it was a dropped pass that kept us out of the red zone or not executing a rundown and now we are playing behind the sticks.”
Claxton is a multi-dimensional and schemed offensive team. In their two regular season games they have run the wing, spread the field and even put three running backs in the backfield while the quarterback is in the pistol. “Not only are they multi-dimensional, but they are multi-talented. As far as the formations going back and fourth we have seen that in two of the four games we have played. Savannah Christian and Benedictine that is what they do. They are going to give you 98 formations and see if you can defend them. That is a challenge I think we will be prepared for. What we have got to do is not let those athletes have big plays. That quarter back is crazy talented. They have two receivers are crazy talented. They have a fullback that they love to get the ball to who is very physical. They are just a good football team, they are talented. They are willing to take every risk they can and sometimes when you play a team that executes really well that will hurt you. So, we just have got to be a team that causes that to work against them.”
The last time Claxton’s starting quarterback played in Toombs County he was a running back for the Tigers middle school team, but now Karon Taylor is a multi-threat in the backfield. He can run, extend plays and throw short and long with accuracy. “We know him well, we know him from when he was in middle school. He is very talented, loves to compete. He can throw and he can run. Everything he does he does well.”
Like Savannah Christian and Benedictine, Claxton has an excellent kicking game. Jorge Gonzalez constantly boots his kickoffs in to the end zone and can nail field goals from 40-yards and out. “You don’t normally see that with a Single A public school. They are very good in the special teams. They have two kickers that can kick the ball. We watched them live in their scrimmage against Jenkins County and they have a lot of confidence being 2-0. They are feeling pretty good about themselves right now.”
The Bullogs have scored half of their 70 points in the third quarter while allowing 35 of 57 points in the first half. “What I would like to see us improve on is playing four quarters of Toombs County football, four quarters of hard played ball. We are going to struggle with execution things because of the guys we have out there don’t have crazy amounts of experience, but if we can play harder and longer than the other team, I would be ecstatic.”
Toombs County Bulldog Unofficial Statistics after 3 games
D.J. Mincey 34 carries, 163 yards (4.8) 4 TD’s
Demetrius Owens 24 carries, 111 yards (6.1) 1 TD
Trey Cloud 17 carries, 65 yards (3.8) 1 TD
Caleb Harley 1 carry, 3 yards
Silas LeGrant 3 carries, 58 yards (19.3)
Octavious Roberts 1 carry, 2 yards
Kodi Cortez 1 carry, -11 yards
Josiah Smith 1 carry, 15 yards
Total 82 carries, 376 yards (4.6) 4 TD’s
Trey Cloud 24-for-61 (39.3%) for 330 yards 3 TD’s and 2 interceptions
Chandler Lynn 11 catches for 158 yards (14.4) 1 TD
Tyquan Toby 3 catches for 59 yards (19.7) 1 TD
Ashlee Ashley 3 catches for 46 yards (15.3)
Tyler Smith 1 catch for 30 yards
Cole Graham 2 catches for 26 yards (13.0)
J.D. Myers 1 catch for 12-yards and a TD
Demetrius Owens 3 catches for -3 yards
Cole Graham 6 for 88 yards (27.2)
Chandler Lynn 5 punts for 167 yards (33.4)
Rafael Florez 10-for-10 PAT 0-2 FG missed 29 yards, 27 yards
Caleb Hartley 0-for-1 FG missed 43 yards
Scoring by quarters
|Toombs County||14||14||35||7||70 (23.3)|
Week 3 Region 2 Results
Savannah Christian 49, Toombs County 0
Dublin 20, Swainsboro 13
Bryan County 28, Long County 14
Metter 21, Jenkins County 14
Vidalia 28, ECI 14
Jeff Davis 20, East Laurens 14
Berrien County 18, Bacon County 0
Week 4 Region 2 Games
2-0 Claxton at 2-1 Toombs County
0-2 Tattnall County at 2-0 Vidalia
1-1 Swainsboro at 2-1 Cross Creek
2-0 Savannah Country Day at 1-1 Bryan County
0-3 Bacon County at 1-1 Telfair County
2-0 Metter at 0-2 ECI
0-2 Brantley County at 3-0 Jeff Davis
Past Bulldog versus Tiger games
TCHS Bulldogs end season with 48-16 win
The Toombs County Bulldogs ended the 2015 season like they started it with a convincing win. The Dawgs opened with a 22 point home victory over Johnson and they finished with a 48-16 victory over Single A Claxton in a crossover game in the Pecan Grove. Both teams end the season with 2-8 records.
In a span of less than three minutes of game time at the end of the first half and the start of the second senior Nathan Belch scored two special teams touchdowns and intercepted one Tiger pass. With 21 seconds remaining in the first half Belch picked off a deep ball- the Bulldogs first and only pick of the season.
Belch started the second half returning the kickoff 72-yards for a touchdown giving the Bulldogs a 27-0 lead. Then two minutes and twenty seconds later Belch returned a punt 71-yards for a second special teams touchdown. On both plays he was able to run down the Bulldog sideline on his way to the south end zone.
Speedy Tigers win again
For the second straight season the speedy Claxton Tigers defeated the Toombs County Bulldogs. Last year in the Pit the combo of Shavez Mincey and Bron Glover led the Tigers to a 28-25 win. On Friday night, in the Pecan Grove, those two seniors plus freshman Zachaeus Grant scored all four of Claxton’s offensive touchdowns in a 34-6 victory.
Claxton scored on it’s first two possessions by spreading the field and opening up running lanes for Mincey, who was a questionable starter because of back injury suffered against Portal. Grant finished Claxton’s first drive with a seven-yard run in to the right corner of the end zone with 9:56 to play in the opening quarter. Glover concluded the home teams second possession with an eight-yard touchdown run with 5:19 left to give Claxton a 14-0 first quarter lead.
The Bulldogs switched back to their I-formation for the first time this season and started moving the ball successfully between the 30’s. Grouping backs together in pairs- fullback Mark Terrell and tailback Kelo Bagley and Xavier Horne (wearing number 32) and freshman Jamar Smith, the Bulldogs were able to drive the ball close to the red zone. However, penalities and negative plays left them with a fourth and twenty on one drive and a fourth and thirty on another and on neither occassion were the Bulldogs able to convert a first down. They tried a wide receiver reverse by Chris Mobley and a pass in to the end zone by quarterback James Ethredge. Claxton scored the only second quarter TD on a 30-yard run by Mincey with 4:03 left giving Claxton a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs defensive front helped stifle Claxton in the third quarter and nobody scored in that period. The Tigers added an offensive score with 10:09 to play in the fourth when Grant scored his second TD on a 12-yard run. Claxton’s junior varsity unit recovered a Bulldog fumble in the end zone, with 3:06 to play, to make it 34-0. A determined bunch of JV Dawgs, plus Smith, denied Claxton a shutout by driving down field and scoring with no time left on a short run by Jamar- his first varsity touchdown.
Tigers nip Dawgs in Pit shootout
On a night in which the Toombs County Bulldogs were hoping to bounce back from their loss to Vidalia they instead found themselves in a shootout and their last shot to tie with seven seconds left came up just a little bit short giving visiting Claxton a 28-25 win.
After the Tigers took the three-point lead, with 1:51 to play in the game, on a 45-yard pass play- Michael Peel to Tron Glover, the Bulldogs moved down field and set up a 37-yard field goal attempt for Patrick Craft. The seniors kick from the right hash was online, but came up inches short of sending the game to overtime.
The shootout between the former region rivals featured five scoring plays over 30-yards. Claxton scored first with nine seconds remaining in the first quarter on a 38-yard run by Shavez Mincey. Then on the next play from scrimmage Kelo Bagley raced 65-yard for a TD and with a Craft PAT it was 7-7 after a quarter.
Claxton regained the lead with 6:55 to play in the second quarter when Bron Glover scored on a third down run out of the Tigers’ wildcat formation. The PAT missed so it was 13-7 visitors. Claxton gave the Bulldogs two points on a safety after snapping the ball over the punters head and it went through the end zone. Then the Bulldogs took their first lead as freshman quarterback James Ethredge hit Craft for a 35-yard score. For both it was their first varsity touchdown. Craft’s extra point gave the Bulldogs a 16-13 lead with 24 seconds left in the half.
Craft scored the first points of the second half by nailing his first varsity field goal- a 22-yarder with 3:26 to play in the third quarter. Claxton rebounded early in the fourth quarter. With 10:03 to go, Mincey darted in to the end zone on a 3-yard run. A Brandon Van Duerson PAT put Claxton up 20-19. Bagley scored his second TD of the night and third of the season on a 46-yard gem of a run. The Bulldogs went for two, but failed and with 3:40 to play in this wild game, they led 25-20.
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