Randolph-Clay’s Khadshaad Johnson drags down Kendrick fullback Diyon Copeland for a loss in the backfield during the first half of Thursday night’s season opener for both teams. The
Red Devils walked away victorious with a 33-20 win in Columbus. (Photo by Columbus Ledger-Enquirer/Special to The Herald)
COLUMBUS -- Randolph-Clay withstood a second-half comeback and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for a 33-20 win against Kendrick at A.J. McClung Stadium on Thursday night in the season opener for both teams.
Randolph-Clay coach Daniel McFather said he couldn't have been prouder of his youthful squad for stepping up a week after getting shut out by Calhoun County in a scrimmage game.
"I challenged our kids to grow up and get better every week," McFather said. "We played in that scrimmage game, and Calhoun whipped us pretty good. The kids said they were going to work hard and not let that happen again."
And the Red Devils, who started five freshmen and eight sophomores Thursday, lived up to their promise, scoring through the air, on the ground and on defense.
Randolph-Clay jumped out to a 13-0 lead with a pair of rushing touchdowns from Dontrevious Bolden, who had a two-yard score in the first quarter and a 33-yard gallop into the end zone in the second.
The game was a tale of two halves for the Cherokees, who couldn't muster any offense in the opening two quarters. The Red Devils took a 13-0 halftime advantage, outrushing the Cherokees 151 to 19. Kendrick also had zero first downs in the first half.
But that story changed in the second half. Kendrick coach Jerry Dukes put in Lee Reno, Jamar Comar and Jakey Harris, which sparked the Cherokees' running game.
The Cherokees ran up 203 rushing yards in the second half and were paced by Harris, who wound up with more than 100 yards on the night.
In the third quarter, Comar broke open for a 45-yard run, and quarterback Diyon Copeland ran in a two-yard touchdown to give Kendrick its first lead of the contest, 14-13.
But a sharp passing attack put the Red Devils back on top despite the Cherokees' surging running game. The Cherokees made some changes and stopped the running game in the third quarter, so Randolph-Clay took to the air. Meanwhile, the Cherokees failed to complete a single pass in the entire game.
Randolph-Clay starting quarterback Caleb McFather threw two touchdowns on play-action passes to Dominique Burkes for 33 and 48 yards to take the lead -- and never look back.
"We were running the ball really well, so we were able to do some play-action," Daniel McFather said. "Caleb was able to get it to him, and he made a couple of nice catches in traffic."
Burkes finished with four catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Kendrick came as close as 21-20 when Harris used a fake punt and went 76 yards to set up Copeland's second short touchdown run, but the two-point conversion attempt failed.
Caleb McFather's second touchdown pass to Burkes gave the Red Devils a cushion, and Randolph-Clay then iced the game when freshman Gary McCrae picked up a Kendrick fumble in the final two minutes and rumbled 27 yards for the final score.
"James Jackson hit the running back and caused the fumble, and the ball popped out about seven to eight yards," Daniel McFather said. "The offense couldn't find the ball, so McCrae picked it up, didn't hear a whistle and just took off running. It was a heads up play."
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer sportswriter Ron Frazier and Albany Herald sportswriter John Millikan contributed to this report