Zytavious Anderson, a freshman RB for Worth, overcame two early fumbles to lead the Rams past Swainsboro, 14-7, in the Rams' season opener Friday night.
SYLVESTER — Worth County coach Scotty Ward didn’t plan on putting the fate of Friday night’s season opener in the hands of a freshman running back.
His plans changed when star rusher Quantavious Sweney was wheeled into the back of an ambulance and taken to the hospital after halftime.
However, freshman Zytavious Anderson carried the load just fine in the second half, and the Worth County defense kept Swainsboro in check to lead the Rams to a 14-7 victory.
“We were going to try to give him some reps anyway, but it was a few more than what I wanted to give him,” Ward said about Anderson, who finished with a team-high 15 carries and 60 yards.
Sweney, a junior, rushed for 48 yards and both Worth County touchdowns in the first half but was taken to the hospital to receive fluids at the beginning of the third quarter because of severe cramping during halftime, forcing Anderson into the backfield.
The freshman was able to bounce back from two fumbles in his first eight touches to break off several key runs in the second half, extending Worth County drives and helping the Rams win the battle for field position.
“(Sweney) was the star running back, and I had to fill in for him. I couldn’t let the team down,” said Anderson, the younger brother of Ellis Anderson, who led the region in rushing last season as a senior. “I had to turn it up.”
The Worth County defense turned it up, too.
Swainsboro’s only score came on a 90-yard kick-off return at the end of the first quarter by senior Rico Johnson, but the visiting Tigers wouldn’t even get close to the end zone the rest of the night. Worth County’s defense held Swainsboro to just 142 yards of total offense, senior defensive end Wesley Douthit recovered a key fumble in the third quarter and the Rams forced a late turnover on downs in their own territory in the closing seconds.
It was a gutty effort from a defense that has seven returning starters.
“We controlled the ball the first half. We had 28 plays and they had 10. That’s pretty much setting the tone,” Ward said. “We bent some the second half, but we never broke, and that’s what you hope happens.”
Sweney gave the Rams just enough offense in the first half to hang on. The speedy back punched in a 4-yard TD with 52 seconds left in the first quarter and then got his second score with 3:35 remaining in the first half on a 2-yard run when he met two defenders at the 1-yard line and muscled his way in.
“We executed the gameplan well. We ran the ball, and that’s what we do,” said quarterback Eli Reddell, who finished 5-for-12 for 87 yards.
Worth County freshman Eric Burrows began the night by recovering an onside kick, but Anderson coughed up his first fumble on the second play of the game.
“I was mad,” Anderson said. “Coach has told me over and over (to protect the ball).”
Two minutes into the second half, Anderson fumbled again.
“That’s one thing we have tried to fight so, so hard,” Ward said. “In practice, he has put it on the ground some, but other times he looks like a tailback who can take it to the house anytime.”
With first-down runs of 22 and 15 yards, he eventually turned into that capable rusher Ward had seen in practice — giving both Anderson and his teammates some confidence.
“He’s only a freshman, but he has a future in him. He is something special,” Reddell said.
Lavonte Robinson led the Rams in receiving with two catches for 57 yards and also ran three times for 46 yards.
The Rams (1-0) play again Friday at Cook County.