Scotty Ward's Worth County team picked up a big win in its Region 1-AAAA opener Friday in Sylvester against Dougherty.
ALBANY — Scotty Ward heard the statistic, paused and then shook his head in disbelief.
“We (recovered) seven turnovers?” the Worth County head coach said after Friday’s 35-8 victory against Dougherty. “Seven? I can’t imagine that’s ever happened before.”
The Rams forced seven — yes, seven — turnovers in the Region 1-AAAA opener and turned a close game into a blowout with three touchdowns in the final three minutes.
And as each turnover landed in the hands of Worth County’s defenders, they could feel their season coming back into focus after two demoralizing losses the last two weeks.
After its offense had been shut out in losses to Cook and Tift County, it was a win the Rams (2-2) needed.
“When you don’t score for two games and you have chances and can’t get it done, it becomes pretty disheartening at times,” Ward said. “This was a good win for us right now, I’m telling you.”
It was a deflating loss for the Trojans, who played right with Worth County up until the final minutes of the game and were 13 yards away from tying the game with 10:45 left in the fourth quarter.
But three fourth quarter turnovers and several breakdowns on defense cost Corey Joyner his first victory as head coach of the Trojans, who slipped to 0-4 overall.
“We are a young team and are trying to still learn how to play the game the right way and to play with that speed and tenacity, and also take care of the ball,” Joyner said.
Dougherty threw three interceptions and lost four fumbles — but the Trojans’ biggest loss of the night came eight minutes into the game when quarterback Chris Thomas was knocked out of the game and taken to the hospital with an injury to his throwing arm. The injury forced Michael Whatley, the Trojans’ starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, to return under center earlier than expected after suffering his own arm injury last week.
“Our guys fight hard, but we just don’t have the numbers on our team to maintain a good fight throughout the game,” Joyner said.
Neither Dougherty quarterback had much luck against the Worth County defense. Thomas had six yards of total offense and lost a fumble, and Whatley was 10-for-17 with 113 yards and three interceptions and rushed for (minus)-40 yards with two fumbles.
Worth County’s Wesley Douthit sacked Thomas to knock him out of the game, forced a fumble on the play and picked it up to set up the Rams’ first touchdown. Douthit finished the game with two forced fumbled and two fumble recoveries.
“I feel like this was more of a test to open the region,” Douthit said. “This was a starting point for us to go from having two losses to digging ourselves out of the hole and coming back.”
Oscar Lewis also recovered a fumble, while Marlin Hall, Hakeem Slade and Lavonte Robinson all had interceptions.
Worth County jumped ahead 15-0 in the first half with a 32-yard TD run from Zytavious Anderson and a 1-yard TD run from quarterback Eli Reddell, but Dougherty pulled to within a touchdown at the end of the second quarter with a 7-yard pass to Madarious McWhorter from Whatley.
Neither team scored until the final minutes of the game when Worth County punctuated its victory with three TDs — 3- and 1-yard rushes from Anderson and a 23-yard run from Avery Parker.
Anderson finished with 123 yards on 23 carries and had several big gains in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
“I really believe, more than anything else, it was (Anderson) finally saying, ‘I am the man and I am going to tote the football,’ “ Ward said. “I thought he ended up with a pretty good night. I thought that’s where we won the football game. I thought we out-manned them, in the fourth quarter especially.”
Worth plays again Friday at home against Americus-Sumter, while Dougherty is in action Friday against Crisp County at Hugh Mills Stadium.