Toombs County and Savannah Christian getting ready for a sixth match up

It has been a little more than a decade since the Toombs County Bulldogs and the Savannah Christian Raiders have met on the football field. November 16, 2007 to be precise. The Bulldogs were a number three seed playing the second seeded Raiders at Garden City Stadium in the opening round of the GHSA State Playoffs.

Toombs County opened up an 18-0 first half lead. However, the Raiders scored a late second quarter touchdown and and a two-point conversion and then rode that momentum in the second half scoring 27 more points in a 35-18 victory. That was Mark Stroud’s last game coaching the Toombs County Bulldogs. He took the Calvary job in early 2008.

Here is a slight bit of irony. The winner of that game earned a trip to Thomasville to face head coach Richie Marsh (current Toombs County head coach) and his streaking Bulldogs. The 2007 Thomasville team was in the midst of a nine-game winning streak. Thomasville shutout Laney 24-0 in the first round and knocked off Savannah Christian 20-14. Those Bulldogs 10-game winning streak came to an end with a 20-16 home loss to Lovett. The next week Lovett beat Cook County 29-16 before losing to super power Buford the following week in the state championship game 50-0. That Buford team shutout seven opponents, including three in the playoffs. Earlier the Wolves blanked Darlington 41-0 and Dublin 48-0.

That was the only time coach Marsh ever faced Savannah Christian and the coach on the other sideline stepped down from that job after 2016 season. Donald Chumley won 116 games and lost only 32. He led his Raiders to a state championship in 2011 and a runner-up finish in 2009 in Class A. He has taken the last two seasons off. However, the former Georgia Bulldog is seeking to return to sideline, maybe next season. Coach Chumley will be honored at halftime of Friday’s game and many of his former players are expected to attend.

William Bell was the Raiders head coach in 2017 and his team made the playoffs and finished 6-5. In February Baker Woodward left Benedictine, where he was the offensive coordinator, and he is so far 1-1 as the Raiders head coach.

So, Friday night a 7:30 p.m. on Y-101 Radio and streamed on Mixlr, Marsh and Woodward will face each other for the first time and the Raiders and the Bulldogs will meet for the sixth time. Toombs County won twice in 2004 (16-7) and in 1995 (29-0). The Raiders have won three times. In 2007 (full game story below) and in 2005 (20-6) and in 1994 (14-13).

Raiders are 1-1

The Raiders (left) shake hands with New Hampstead after their 1-point win

On August 10 Savannah Christian scrimmaged New Hampstead at Pooler Stadium. NH is off to a 2-0 start after wins over Jenkins 25-8 and Beach 32-17. The 5A school, which plays in the same region with Wayne County and Statesboro, opened up a 20-7 lead over Savannah Christian. The Phoenix scored on third down pass from the five-yard line, a fourth and goal pass from the three and a one-yard run which was set up by a 45-yard pass play.

The Raiders made it a 7-7 game in the first quarter with a nine-yard rushing TD. In the third quarter Jordan Grant, a 5-10 senior quarterback (#2), set up a three-yard rushing touchdown with a 74-yard pass play to make it 20-14. The Phoenix pushed the lead back in to double-digits with an 11-yard TD pass that made it 27-14 with 5:44 left in the third quarter. Next Grant caught a 70-yard TD pass with 2:21 to play in the third quarter to cut the NH lead to 27-21 and the Raiders finished their comeback when Grant crossed the goal line on a five-yard run with 1:15 to play in the scrimmage. The PAT broke a 27-all tie and gave the Raiders a 28-27 win.

Savannah Christian opened the regular season at Athens Academy and the Class A Spartans won 20-7. AA scored first on an 80-yard drive and a 44-yard deep ball for six. The Raiders tied the game at 7-all. SC intercepted a pass and returned it to the Spartan 33. Quarterback Spencer Robicheaux (#18, 5-10 150 sophomore) threw a 20-yard pass to Noah Chumley (#15, 603 180 senior) in the right corner of the end zone. Chumley was bumped and pass interference was called, but Chumley caught the ball anyway.

In the third quarter Athens Academy scored on a four-yard TD, just a minute and nine seconds in, to take a 14-7 lead and then the Spartans converted on a fourth down and one play at the SC 38 and they were stopped on a fourth and two play at the 17. A 34-yard field goal put AA up 17-7 with 5:28 left in the third quarter. The Spartans added a 39-yard field goal with 6:40 to play in the fourth quarter.

Robicheaux completed 14-of-28 passes for 101-yards and even though Nate Moon (#8, 5-10 165 junior) didn’t find the end zone he did rush for 152-yards on 18 carries.

Next up for the Raiders was a road game at Oceanside Collegiate Academy- a Double A school from Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. This one turned in to a rout quickly as Savannah Christian built up a 40-0 halftime lead.

Three different Raiders scored in the first quarter. Moon on short runs of four and seven yards, Grant on a five-yard run and Marquell Brown (#6 5-6 155 junior) on a 15-yard run.

In the second quarter on a third down and 25-play from the 10-yard line, Moon took the handoff and broke a tackle at the 15 and then headed to the sideline and by the time he crossed his 40, he was gone on a 90-yard TD run. Grant scored on a three-yard run in the third quarter and a 48-yard run in the fourth in a 54-10 win. He rushed for 121-yards on 11 carries.

Coach Richie Marsh talks about the Hancock Central and Savannah Christian games

From left- Derrick Mincey, Dawson Malone and Brannon Usher rush the passer

After opening the season with a 35-0 home win over Twiggs County, the Bulldog defense shutout Hancock Central for the first 28 plus minutes before yielding a 10-play, 61-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter. Also, the Dawg defense scored a touchdown on Demetrius Owen’s fumble recovery and run in to the south end zone and Chandler Lynn stopped another potential scoring drive by intercepting a pass in the end zone toward the end of the first half. “Coach (Buddy- the defensive coordinator) Martin has really set high expectations for those guys,” Marsh said. “For the most past they try to reach that bar everyday. There are some guys over there who have some experience, that we expect a lot out of. We knew it was going to be this way in the beginning til our offensive line grows up a little bit. Special teams were an additional huge factor in that game because they kept the field long and therefore Hancock didn’t have a short field. So, when you put those two things together, being able to play great defensive and score on defense and keep the ball on the other end of the field, you’ve got a chance.”

New Bulldog Caleb Hartley had another active game. The transfer from Florida is the son of new outside linebacker coach Charlie Hartley and he tracks the ball quite well. “Caleb is getting better week by week,” Marsh added. “I think his position was kind of up in the air as far as what was thought of and what he was going to play, but we took one look at him and knew that for us he was going to be a linebacker. He has accepted that role with a great attitude and coach Martin obviously does a great job coaching those linebacker and trying to get them to play fast. They are making things simple for him and you can tell he has gotten better week by week and obviously we are going to need for that to continue to happen if we are going to be a better defense and that is what we labor everyday to try to be, is better than we were the game prior to that. My hats off to Hancock Central because they are a really, really, really good football team. We don’t know how many steps we took forward in that game other than showing the resilience to hang on and be able to win a game at the end. We don’t think we made a huge improvement from week one to week two in that area, but we are busting our butts to make that improvement to week three.”

On offense, against Hancock Central, the Bulldogs were unable to sustain drives. They scored their lone offensive touchdown on a four-play, 35-yard drive. “If we are gonna be a really good football team we are going to have to sustain some drives and to sustain drives, in my opinion, you have got to run the football,” Marsh said. “The offensive staff coach (Jared) Hamlin and coach (Dominique)Wilson and that offensive line have been busting their butts everyday to try and make that happen. That has just got to be something that we put together and when that is going to happen, I don’t know. I am praying that it happens this week because we are going to need for that to happen.” Savannah Christian place kicker Noah Chumley has booted the ball in the end zone eight out of 11 times and he is also averaging 43-yards per punt with a long of 48. “There kicking game is excellent. Our kicking game has got to be excellent too. Even if it is the battle of kicking games we have got to have some punts that are greater than 29 or 30-yards because we know what there kicking game is like and we can’t stay on our end of the field.”

On offense the Raiders run the wing and they will also put the quarterback back in the shotgun and zip the ball around. Savannah Christian has rushed for 592 yards and thrown the ball for 235 in two regular season games. “They are almost a copy cat of Benedictine because their coach is from Benedictine,” Marsh said about first year head coach Baker Woodward who was the Cadets’ offensive coordinator. “They are very methodical in what they do. They are very fundamental. I always love watching them because they know what they want to do and their kids obviously believe in it. It’s an offense that fits those kids very well. Their skill positions are what you expect out of a private school over in Savannah that does a good job and then their bigs, they come off the ball and take the right steps and they are physical. It is a good ole South Georgia football game when you play a Benedictine or Savannah Christian. It is not one of those finesse games. They like to run it at you and we like trying to defend that type stuff. It is going to be a huge, huge test for us in every aspect of the game.”

Savannah Christian quarterback Spenser Robicheaux has completed 20-of-39 passes (53%) for 210 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions. Nate Moon leads the rushing attack with 273 yards. He is averaging 9.4 per carry and has scored three touchdowns. Jordan Grant has 21 carries for 177 yards and is averaging 8.4 and has also scored three touchdowns. Chumley has five catches for 51 yards and one TD, Grant has five catches for 44 yards and Omar Burroughs (#1- 5-10, 155 sophomore) four for 27 yards. “They have some kids that can go. Got to make sure you are tackling very well, can’t miss a lot of tackles. You don’t want one of those kids to get to the third level of your defense because they have made a lot of big plays in the games that they have played and they sustain drives. Offensively they are a very good football team, they are very sound. They throw the ball well that quarterback has got a rifle. You can clearly see they are getting better each week. The New Hampstead game would have been a lot different if their passing game had been what it is now,” Marsh said.

Familiar face on the other sideline

Coach Derrick Fitzgerald addresses the Bulldogs in 2016

Derrick Fitzgerald is an assistant coach at Savannah Christian. He came to Toombs County in 2014 and was on L.M. Guys staff and also spent the 2016 season on coach Marsh’s staff. In addition Fitzgerald was the head middle school, football, basketball and track and field coach. His son Nick, who once visited Booster Stadium, is back for his senior season at Mississippi State. The quarterback, who played for Guy at Richmond Hill, is considered a Heisman Trophy candidate. However, he won’t be starting in Mississippi State’s season opener against Stephen F. Austin. New Bulldog head coach Joe Moorhead has suspended Fitzgerald for violating team rules dating back to March.

Our guys certainly understand that we talk about choices and consequences and decision making and accountability,” Moorhead said. “They understand that they’re going to have to deal with the consequences of their choices.”

Fitzgerald, who threw for 1782 yards and 15 TD’s and rushed for 984 and 14 in his junior season, is coming off a gruesome ankle injury suffered in the first quarter of the Ole Miss game. He is expected to be the starting QB in game two at Kansas State.

Nick Fitzgerald visits Booster Stadium

 

Father and son during their Savannah Christian days

Toombs County Bulldog Unofficial Statistics after 2 games

Rushing

D.J. Mincey 25 carries, 86 yards (3.4) 2 TD

Demetrius Owens 12 carries, 73 yards (6.1) 1 TD

Trey Cloud 6 carries, 39 yards (16.7) 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 50 carries, 235 yards (4.7) 4 TD’s

Passing

Trey Cloud 10-for-28 for 126 yards 3 TD’s and 0 interceptions

Receiving

Tyquan Toby 2 catch for 49 yards 1 TD

Chandler Lynn 3 catch for 36 yards 1 TD

Tyler Smith 1 catch for 30 yards

Cole Graham 1 catch for 12 yards

Demetrius Owens 3 catches for -3 yards

Punting

Cole Graham 3 for 88 yards (29.3)

Chandler Lynn 5 punts for 167 yards (33.4)

Kicking

Rafael Florez 7-for-7 PAT 0-2 FG missed 29 yards, 27 yards

Caleb Hartley 0-for-1 FG missed 43 yards

Week 2 Region 2 Results

Toombs County 14, Hancock Central 8

Vidalia 28, Appling County 20

Jeff Davis 41, Windsor Forest 40

Metter 27, Islands 20 (2OT)

Pierce County 48, Bacon County 0

Claxton 28, Bryan County 6

Swainsboro off

Week 3 Region 2 Games

2-0 Toombs County at 1-1 Savannah Christian

2-0 Dublin at 1-0 Swainsboro

0-2 Long County at 0-1 Bryan County

0-1 Jenkins County at 1-0 Metter

0-1 ECI at 1-0 Vidalia

2-0 Jeff Davis at 0-2 East Laurens

0-2 Bacon County at 1-1 Berrien County

2007- Raiders come from 18 down to end Bulldogs season in the first round

The 2007 Bulldogs were trying to become the first Toombs County High School team to win a road playoff game in the school’s 20 year history. And for the first 23 minutes and 22 seconds it looked like the Bulldogs had a chance to do so at Garden City Stadium- the home of the Savannah Christian Red Raiders. The Bulldogs raced to an 18-0 lead, but a late second quarter Raider touchdown sparked a second half comeback that ended the Bulldogs season with another tough road loss, 35-18 in the opening round of the GHSA Class AA State Playoffs.

In the first half the Bulldogs, a three seed out of Region 4, were making big plays against the second seeded Raiders from Region 2. T.J. Smarts intercepted a pass that set the Bulldogs up with a short field, but they didn’t score. Than late in the first quarter Bryan Benton scooped up a fumble at the Raider 21 and the Bulldogs took advantage of the mistake. Quarterback Seth Stroud ended the short drive with a one-yard TD lunge. The Bulldogs’ PAT was blocked so it was 6-0 Dawgs with 1:11 to play in the first quarter.

Toombs County scored two second quarter touchdowns on two big plays. C.J. Scott showed his ankle was close to a 100% by turning a sweep play into a 45-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs went for two, but they failed giving them a 12-0 lead with 6:19 to go in the second quarter. The Dawgs second big play was a 36-yard touchdown run by fullback Kevin Dennard, who was coming off a 268-yard rushing performance at East Laurens. Once again the Bulldogs went for two points, this time from the nine-yard line after a penalty, and again they did not convert. However, leading 18-0, with 3:30 to play in the half, the Bulldogs were sky high.

Savannah Christian, which turned the ball over twice in the first half, set the tone for the second half by making a big play on its final possession of the first half. Quarterback Russell DeMasi hit his talented senior receiver Tyler Sumner with a deep ball and then and then DeMasi scored on a three-yard run. Sumner ran the ball in for the two-point conversion and with just :38 seconds to play in the half the Bulldog lead was 18-8.

In the second half Savannah Christian’s kicking game forced the Bulldogs to start five drives at their 20-yard line. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ veer was clicking. Sumner scored on a five-yard run, with 7:04 to play in the third quarter, to cut the Dawg lead to 18-15. Then with 2:54 to play in the third DeMasi connected with David Butler on a 24-yard touchdown pass and now SCPS had a 22-18 lead. In the fourth quarter 1,000 yard rusher Chris Barnwell scored on two one-yard touchdowns to put the game on ice.

Y-101 play-by-play highlights

Y-101 Locker Room Show

Bulldog Pregame Show- 1st Half

Bulldog Pregame Show- 2nd Half