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Southland tops Terrell Academy in battle of unbeatens

DAWSON — Despite an impressive showing against a bigger Class AAA team with more depth, Friday’s 18-12 homecoming loss to Southland left a particularly bitter taste in Terrell Academy head coach Bill Murdock’s mouth.

Controversy can do that sometimes.

A time expired in the first quarter, Southland’s Collins Christian appeared to catch a 33-yard touchdown pass from Jon Adkins, but he had the ball knocked away by Terrell’s Blake Grimsley.

The referees ruled it a touchdown. Murdock felt Christian didn’t posses the ball long enough and the pass was incomplete.

“We didn’t catch a break. The first touchdown pass they caught was not a touchdown. It wasn’t even close,” Murdock said.

In a game featuring two unbeatens at 3-0 coming in, the Eagles’ defense stepped up big against reigning Herald Player of the Week, Dustin Shattles of Southland, who was fresh off a 276-yard, two-touchdown performance against Sherwood. The sophomore running back was held to a modest 73 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries Friday, but unfortunately for Terrell, Shattles was a major part of an impressive Raider defensive effort as well, breaking up three passes, including one that forced a Terrell Academy turnover on downs.

Southland coach Tim Goodin admitted the victory was harder to come by than expected.

“We just kept changing around formations, and trying to find something they hadn’t schemed up against, just about everything we were doing, they stopped,” he said.

After the contested touchdown, the Eagles answered with an 11-play, 69-yard drive. The drive was capped off with a 4-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Gabel Freeman to junior Tyler Marshall with 6:49 left in the second quarter. After failing to convert the extra point, the Eagles’ defense — led by seniors Clint Smith, Seth Garland and Brandon Donley — started to settle in. The next score would come two plays after an interception by senior Logan Maxwell with 7:18 left in the third when senior Grimsley caught a 16-yard touchdown from Freeman.

Though Marshall and Grimsley chalked up the touchdowns, the majority of the damage came at the hands of the Eagles’ running game, and while Shattles was the headliner coming into the matchup, Terrell Academy fullback Josh Wardrip proved to be a worthy adversary. Waldrip churned out 101 of the Eagles’ 214 rushing yards.

“We were looking forward to this game all year; this was our true test. They’re a good AAA team,” Wadrip said. “We just had to come out and hit the holes hard. I know we lost, but we’ve gotta (look ahead now to) Crisp next week.”

The Raiders’ defense thwarted one final TAE drive.

Before that and after a Shattles touchdown run was called back because of holding, Cleve Bass connected on a 30-yard field goal, cutting the lead to a 12-10 margin. After forcing a Terrell three-and-out, Southland would respond when Dustin Shattles broke two defenders’ ankles on a 28-yard touchdown run, going up 18-12 for good. A long Terrell Academy drive was stopped on fourth down with 4:10 left in the game. The Eagles’ defense forced a punt, but with 2:10 to go, the offense just couldn’t find their rhythm, and the Raiders would run the clock out after forcing a turnover on 4th down.

The Raiders (4-0) play host next Friday, when the Heritage Hawks come to town, while Terrell Academy (3-1) travels east to Cordele next week to face Crisp Academy.