Albany High quarterback Emmanul Byrd had a career game Saturday night in his first start of the season for the Indians, throwing for 181 yards in 5-for-6 passing and four TD passes. He also ran for two scores. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)
ALBANY -- It was opening night for Albany High's Indians Saturday at Hugh Mills Stadium.
They should have worn tuxedos.
Or maybe the kind of scrubs doctors wear when they operate (more on that later).
Go ahead and take a bow, Albany High. Go ahead and take center stage. This team may just be that good, that poised and that ready to rewrite what everyone in this town thinks of the Indians' football program.
Think again. Take a long hard look at that 39-7 opening-night win against rival Dougherty and let it sink in. By the way, it wasn't that close. There was a running clock in the fourth quarter and Dougherty scored its only points when Alfred Brown ran for a 26-yard TD with 28 seconds left in the game.
Think again about what you think about Albany High.
"People don't respect us, and some people probably didn't want us to win, but I think we earned some respect (with the win against Dougherty),'' said AHS quarterback Emmanul Byrd, who had a monster night. "We know we're all we've got, but maybe we did earn respect after this.''
Byrd's the one who should have been wearing the doctor's scrubs.
"He was amazing,'' Albany High coach Felton Williams said. "He was a surgeon out there. He executed the game like a surgeon. He was a coach on the field. You couldn't ask for a better game.''
The surgeon carved up Dougherty early, completing five passes in a row in the first half for 181 yards and four touchdowns. Then he ran for two more. Byrd didn't throw a pass in the second half as Albany High eased up after taking a 32-0 halftime lead.
"He's one of the best quarterbacks in the state,'' said receiver Jeconiah Jackson, who was pretty amazing himself. Jackson made three catches -- all for touchdowns -- for 153 yards. Jackson was especially spectacular on his second TD catch -- an 81-yard catch-and-run in which he broke three tackles, spun into the open, and then raced down the left sideline to lift AHS to a 20-0 lead. Byrd's other TD pass went to Gerald Jenkins, who caught a 13-yarder over the middle. Jenkins also had three sacks on defense.
Four touchdown passes and 181 yards in the air in one half may just be the beginning for Byrd, a junior who has been starting since he was a freshman.
"He had a great night,'' said Emmanul's brother, Roscoe Byrd, a two-way lineman and a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection. "But he has so much more that he's going to do. It's going to be scary for other teams.''
Albany High's defense was pretty scary on Saturday. The Indians had six sacks for 30 yards in losses and also made eight other plays for no gain or a loss. Jontavious Morris, a Dynamite Dozen player who starts on both lines, was involved in three sacks and two other plays for losses.
He was upset because all he heard all week was how last year's last-second 16-14 win against Dougherty that came on a field goal at the gun was lucky.
"They were talking all week,'' Morris said. "They said that last year was a fluke, a field goal. They said it was raining. They said that we were lucky.''
End of discussion.
The Indians have a new field goal kicker this season, freshman Eric Carillo.
"I told him before the game not to worry,'' Williams said. "I told him it wouldn't come down to him.''
It didn't -- thanks to Byrd, an unrelenting defense, and an offensive line that controlled the game.
"I give it all to my offensive line,'' Emmanul Byrd said. "They gave me time to throw and my receivers were open. They were great. My line gave me so much time all I had to do was stay poised in the pocket. My coach put me in the right position (to succeed).''
It was a long night for Dougherty, which was led by Brown, who rushed for 71 yards on six carries after taking over at quarterback. Albany held Dougherty to only three yards passing all night.
Dougherty coach Jesse Hicks is trying to turn the program around, and his Trojans face Mitchell next week.
"Never give up,'' Hicks said. "Keep fighting.''
That's where Dougherty is right now, trying to regroup after a tough opening-night loss to an Albany program that has been on the other side of games like this one.
"This was a long time coming,'' Williams said. "It's the best opening night at Albany High since 1989 when we beat Spencer, 38-2. I was the quarterback that night.
"But this win feels better,'' he added. "These kids have worked so hard. They earned this. Yeah, it's been a long time coming.''
Morris chipped in.
"A real long time,'' he said.
And Roscoe Byrd, who is the co-captain of the team along with Morris, completed the thought.
"It feels good, real good to be on the other side,'' he said.