SGA running back Will Warren had 33 carries for 293 yards and three TDs Friday against TAE.
By Timothy Threadcraft
DAWSON — Terrell Academy looked to get its offense clicking in an important GISA Region 3-AA game against Southwest Georgia Academy.
But the Eagles (5-1) got a little more than they bargained for on Friday, losing a barnburner to the Warriors, 28-21.
Josh Wardrip and Todd Beaver formed a formidable two-headed rushing attack coming into the matchup, but they were upstaged by SGA’s junior running back Will Warren.
“We’d been watching film every day, we knew all their plays,” said Warren.
With Warren’s stat line, it doesn’t come as a shock.
The junior tailback led a hard-nosed Warrior offense, carrying the ball 19 times for a whopping 220 yards in the first half, on his way to a 33-carry, 293-yard, three-touchdown performance.
The teams traded unsuccessful drives until SGA senior defensive back Alex Chambless intercepted a Gabriel Freeman pass as time expired in the first quarter.
Three plays later, the Warriors struck first with a slashing 40-yard touchdown run.
Terrell Academy went three-and-out, and two plays later Warren raced to the end zone again from 45 yards out, making it a 14-0 game halfway through the second quarter.
Not to be outdone, the Eagles stopped the bleeding with a 27-second drive, capped by a 39-yard touchdown run by senior back Todd Beaver.
The Warriors got the ball back with just under 5 minutes to play in the half and made good use of their time.
Another Warren-heavy drive was capped off with a Chris Smith touchdown run from 20 yards out, extending the lead to 21-7 at halftime. After cutting into the lead, the Eagles received the ball first in the second half. However, a nine-play drive was cut short after Corey Smith intercepted a Christian Harris pass, leading to a 2-yard touchdown run by Warren.
At that point it was all but certain that the Warriors would coast to an easy vicory, but the Eagles had other plans.
After going three-and-out, a Terrell Academy punt was muffed. After what looked to be another stagnant series, Todd Beaver snagged an 18-yard touchdown pass from Gabriel Freeman in the right corner of the endzone, making it 21-14 with 6:27 left in regulation.
Beaver led all Terrell Academy offensive performers with 12 touches, 104 total yards and a touchdown.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Eagles executed a perfect onside kick and got the ball back.
On the very next play, Blake Grimsley caught a perfectly drawn-up screen pass and rolled 49 yards for a touchdown.
All of a sudden the Terrell Academy crowd was foaming at the mouth, and SGA was clinging to a 28-21 lead.
On the Warriors’ next possession, Warren was stuffed on three consecutive plays, forcing an SGA punt.
“We were able to make some adjustments, get some penetration, and fill the holes, they were basically running toss sweeps and counters,” Terrell Academy coach Bill Murdock said. “We had a tough time stopping it in the first half. Coach (David) Bell and them had two weeks to prepare for us, they switched up a few things and it really hurt us.”
With the game on the line, though, the Warrior defense bent but didn’t break. After converting a first down on the ground, the Eagles were also stopped on three straight tackles-for-loss, the last two by senior defensive lineman Collin Cowart.
After a desperation heave from Freeman on 4th-and-20 fell incomplete, the Warriors were able to run the clock out and savor a much-needed region win.
Terrell Academy coach Murdock was drained from the game and admitted, “We completed a couple passes, but we didn’t get it done in time. We’re just gonna have to be ready, and that starts when we go back to work on Monday.”
Though Warren made the big plays that made the lead possible, Bell credits the defense on a job well done.
“We didn’t give up, we were playing on the edge, but the defense stood up when it mattered most,” Bell said. “We worked hard for this, we’d been playing a tough schedule. I’m so proud of our offensive line, they had a chip on their shoulder. People have been discounting our running game, we only threw one time all night.”
The Warriors had a tough season up to this point, stumbling to a 2-3 record beforehand. Warren and the offense wanted to get back on track after a 38-0 shellacking at the hands of Westfield in Perry last week.
The Eagles host Valwood next Friday, while SGA faces Brookwood for their homecoming game.