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Terrell Academy trips up Tiftarea in Class AA debut

Terrell Academy star RB Josh Wardrip with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries Friday to beat Tiftarea, 28-14, in Dawson.

Terrell Academy star RB Josh Wardrip with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries Friday to beat Tiftarea, 28-14, in Dawson.

DAWSON — Debuting two new quarterbacks — one a freshman — against a higher classification school looked like it might pose a problem for Terrell Academy on paper.

Instead, the Eagles used a Wing-T ground attack to grind Tiftarea Academy into submission, 28-14, in the season opener Friday at Don Beard Field.

“You can’t expect to be perfect the first game,” said Eagles head coach Bill Murdock, who has used the Wing-T, spread and wishbone offenses in recent years.

Freshman quarterback Christian Harris and junior Gable Freeman, playing in a dual-quarterback system, didn’t need to do much in their first action of 2012 except hand the ball to a stable of runners.

Terrell Academy, playing in GISA Class AA this season after moving up from Class A, ran the ball 61 times for 332 yards and used a stifling defense to hold the Class AAA Panthers to just 65 rushing yards in the opener. Fullback Josh Wardrip led the way with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

“We drew some stuff up at halftime and started opening up holes a lot better in the second half,” Wardrip said.

Aalthough Terrell ran equally well in both halves, rushing for 155 in the first and 177 in the second.

Wardrip busted loose on a 36-yard scoring run with 1:56 to play to seal the season opener and give the Eagles a two-score lead after Tiftarea used two big plays to make things interesting late.

The Panthers had cut the Terrell lead to 20-14 with 7:17 left when Rob Flick hit Nathan Carswell on a 42-yard bomb. Terrell fumbled on a quarterback sack on its ensuing possession at its own 23 yard line, but Eagles lineman Seth Garland pounced on a Tiftarea fumble on the next play to kill the Panthers’ chances of taking a lead.

Josh Beaver, who added 81 yards rushing on 13 carries, showed off his juggling skills at the goal line early in the fourth quarter, bobbling a handoff inside the five before securing the ball and scoring easily to put the Eagles up 20-7 after the point after was blocked with 11:21 left.

“I almost died of a heart attack,” Murdock said the goal-line scare.

Tiftarea trailed, 14-0, before Flick, who threw for 135 yards on 13-of-31 passing with one touchdown and one INT, broke free on a 47-yard score midway through the third quarter.

Terrell had gone ahead early with a fourth-and-goal rushing touchdown from Blake Grimsley and Wardrip’s 4-yard plunge on the game’s first possession.

Tiftarea began to gradually slow the run down after the first Eagles score but never could stop it completely thanks to Terrell Academy’s big offensive line.

“Power (football),” senior lineman Clint Smith said of the offense’s gameplan. “That was one of our main (strengths coming into the opener).”

Grimsley ran for 76 yards a score and added an interception on defense, while sophomore Raleigh Carlson tallied 68 yards on the ground. Harris and Freeman each attempted just one pass, both completions, for a total of 33 yards through the air, but Murdock was pleased with the performance of both.

“I think they both did a good job,” Murdock said. “They both deserved to play (and) they both were nervous as heck.”

The Eagles travel to face rival Randolph Southern next Friday.