Corey Joyner, a Dougherty alum, took over the struggling program this offseason with the promise to turn it around. Well, the Trojans took a massive step toward that goal Thursday night when it stunned Americus-Sumter, 16-7, for their first win since last year.
ALBANY — It was fitting that it was a freshman who led Dougherty to its first win of the season Thursday night at Hugh Mills Stadium, where the Trojans celebrated after beating Americus-Sumter, 16-7, to snap a 15-game losing streak and give new coach Corey Joyner his first victory as a head coach.
It was especially sweet for Joyner, who was a star at Dougherty and a longtime assistant at his alma mater before getting the job last spring.
"I was just excited for the kids. My prayers are always for them to experience success on the football field. They worked so hard in the classroom and on the field and in workouts during the summer," Joyner said. "I was just excited for them and let them be exuberant after the win."
No one thought his kids would win a game this season, but Joyner’s team has improved all season and put a scare into Herald No. 2 Westover last week before losing, 41-32.
"This has been a tough battle for the kids, only winning one game last year and not beating a region team (since 2009). This win was all about them," Joyner said. "We are getting better. We are seeing improvement each week. That's respect within itself. We play to make ourselves better. We have been getting better offensively and defensively each game."
Joyner starts several underclassmen, but he has a young and hungry team that came back from a 7-0 halftime deficit and put the game away with two second half runs by Ladarrien Royal, a freshman running back who scored on a 20-yard run in the third quarter and then put the game away with a 3-yard TD run with 3:30 left in the game.
Americus scored on a 15-yard run by Jaylon Harris in the first quarter, but Dougherty’s defense kept the Panthers, who scored 83 points in their two region wins against Albany High and Worth County, out of the end zone the rest of the night.
“They just beat us,’’ Americus-Sumter coach Chris Wade said. “They had a good game plan and played well on both sides of the ball. They had a great plan, and they just beat us.’’
Joyner went for two points after each TD. Michael Whatley hit Demario Barney with a two-point pass, and then Whatley ran for two points to make the final, 16-7.
Dougherty is now 1-5 in the Region 1-AAAA and 1-8 for the season. The Trojans hadn’t beaten Americus since 2006, and won their first region game since they beat Perry, 34-9, in 2009, snapping a 17-game region losing streak.
Joyner said his players got on one knee and gave thanks after seeing the futility end.
"We just prayed. We do what we always do after games. We just prayed," he said. "I thanked them for sticking together. They could have easily quit on the season. But these guys came back each week and practiced hard and got a win. It was something the kids deserved. I know they are going to have a great time together at school (today)."
Americus (2-4 in the Region 1-AAAA race and 4-5 overall) falls into fifth place in the race behind Worth County (3-2), which plays at home tonight vs. Westover.