Worth County head coach Jason Tone
SYLVESTER — No one would’ve blamed Jason Tone one bit if he’d puffed his chest a little.
Sure, he could’ve spoken for a few seconds about himself Friday night after Worth County beat Swainsboro, 33-13, to give Tone his first win as a head coach — as well as a victory in his debut with the Rams.
But that ain’t how this Ram rolls.
“It’s not about me,” Tone said genuinely. “Honestly, I’m just so proud for the kids. That’s why we (coaches) do it, that’s why we get in the business of coaching. We want to influence these kids and see that they’re learning the stuff we’ve been preaching. That’s the way it should be.”
But don’t think for a second Tone didn’t take a little time to himself afterward to let it all sink in.
“Awww … I mean, it does feel great, but again, it feels great because we watched our kids be successful,” said Tone, who came over from state powerhouse Camden County, where he served as its running backs for six seasons and won a state title in 2008. “We’ve practiced hard since June, putting in all kinds of effort, and it was just exciting to watch it unfold the way it did.”
The Rams jumped out to a 19-0 halftime lead with their defense forcing turnovers and offense clicking. Sophomore running back Zytavious Anderson scored the Rams’ first points of the season from three yards out late in the first quarter. That was followed on the very next possession — which began deep in Worth County territory — by an 84-yard scamper from Rams QB Tay Curry. Curry, the speedy senior signal caller, was expected to have a big season in his first year on varsity after he was declared ineligible last season by the GHSA in a bizarre ruling and was forced to play JV, where he dominated.
“He looked good,” Tone said of Curry, who finished with 157 yards on seven carries and scored the Rams’ final two TDs on runs of 20 and 19 yards. “We used six different ball carriers and kept them off guard. It took us a little while to get into rhythm, but once we did, we did some good things.”
The rhythm issue likely had to do with two different lightning delays of just under an hour.
“We got the ball, went three-and-out and then went into a delay,” Tone said. “Then they had the ball, went three-and-out and we went into another lightning delay. It was a weird way to start the game.”
Johntavious Byrd, a sophomore, scored the Rams’ other TD just before halftime. Anderson finished with 10 carries for 70 yards and a TD, but it was the defense Tone wanted to talk more about after this one.
“Two picks and, I think, we had two or three fumble recoveries,” he said. “That’s a good night on defense.”
Anthony Iudiciani and Justin Smith snagged interceptions, showing that the new scheme first-year defensive coordinator Eric Thomas implemented is already working. Of course, it takes a lot to impress a guy like Tone, who was part of a growing legacy at Camden, where the Wildcats have gone deep in the state playoffs each season for the last decade-plus, including a 73-9 record in Tone’s six years there.
Worth lost seven games alone last season, so the new head coach wasn’t about to crown his guys just yet. Not even close, in fact.
“We’re a low B,” Tone told The Herald earlier this week when asked to grade his team before its season opener.
Guess what the grade was after a 20-point win Friday?
“We’re still a low B,” he said with zero hesitation. “We’ve got plenty of room to improve. Let’s just say I’m pleased, but not satisfied.”
He was, however, quite satisfied with one end result Friday.
“They tried to get me with a Gatorade bath afterward, but someone warned me and I ran away,” he said with a long laugh. “They tried, and maybe I should’ve let them douse me. But, shoot, I didn’t want to ride home three hours all soaking wet.”
After all, if Tone is as successful as he hopes to be at Worth, there’s plenty of time for that.
WESTWOOD, PIEDMONT BATTLE TO A … TIE?: Ross Worsham has been a part of ties before — and he’s not a fan.
“I wish we would’ve played it out, played overtime, but it wasn’t my call,” the Westwood coach said. “(Piedmont) just chose not to.”
So the Wildcats’ opener ended in an anti-climatic 20-20 tie, which came about when Piedmont — down 20-12 late — drove the field with under two minutes left and scored. The Cougars then got the two-point conversion to knot the score.
Worsham wasn’t just frustrated with his defense giving up a 20-6 lead with 10 minutes to go, or the fact neither team went home a winner, he just didn’t feel it was a typical Westwood-like showing in the Wildcats’ debut.
“We were sloppy, not sharp. I hope (it was first-game jitters),” said the coach, whose program has been the shining example of excellence in the Georgia private-school ranks the last three years, winning two state titles in Class A and finishing runner-up a year ago in AA. “And we got a kid hurt, so that wasn’t great either.”
That player was Johnny Hendricks, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior lineman who is so important to this year’s team Worsham singled him out during the preseason as one of the team’s keys. Hendricks, who tore his ACL in practice before the second game of the year last season, hurt that same knee again Friday and had to be helped off the field. Worsham and the Wildcats are holding their breath as they wait for the diagnosis.
“We’re hopeful because a doctor was there, looked at it and said it felt stable from what he could tell,” Worsham said Friday. “I didn’t see what happened, but from what I’m told he planted wrong. He was walking (Friday night after the game), so we hope he’s OK.”
When reached Saturday, Worsham offered this update: “We’re thinking it might just be a sprain, so that was great new. We’ll know for sure Monday.”
Westwood was led by four-year varsity star J.T. Edore, who is trying to parlay his senior season into a college scholarship and already has lots of interest. Edore scored twice on short runs, while first-year starter at QB, Ralph Collins, accounted for the other touchdown on a slashing 25-yard run on a draw play.
Westwood didn’t have a turnover all night and the defense held Peidmont to six points for 38 minutes of the game, but the Wildcats will be practicing one area in particular this week in preparations for a short turnaround game against Stratford Academy on Thursday.
“Big plays. We win if we don’t give up two big plays,” Worsham said. “We weren’t clicking there, and it hurt us. We’ve got to go back to work.”
BACONTON LOSES A HEARTBREAKER: Johnny Hayes and the Blazers just can’t catch a break. After losing a couple of close games last season — en route to a 4-6 record that could’ve easily been 6-4 — Baconton opened Friday with a 12-6 overtime loss to Brantley County.
Hayes, however, was proud of his kids and how they handled the loss.
“I thought out kids played extremely hard. We just missed some tackles, had a few first-game jitters,” he said. “The effort was there, we just came up a little short — and now they understand what we have to do better. I got that sense talking to them after the game. We’ll get better from this.”
Last year’s four wins were the most since Baconton, one of the smallest Class A schools in Georgia, began the football program five seasons ago. They spent the first season playing a JV schedule and this is now their fourth year at the varsity level — although Baconton’s never played a full Region 1-A schedule as it continues to try to get acclimated to football at the GHSA level. Hayes, who is in his second season, wants to take the program to a full region schedule next year, but he knows performances like Friday — when it took Baconton nearly three full quarters to score its first points of 2013 — won’t cut it.
“The main thing is we played hard,” Hayes said. “We will build on that. We have to.”
Quinton Smith, the Blazers’ star RB, capped a 60-yard drive late in the third quarter from four yards out. Brantley was already ahead, 6-0, before the score, so a successful PAT would’ve given the Blazers a one-point lead and put them a little more than 12 minutes away from their first season-opening win in school history.
Instead, the PAT was blocked. Kicking woes were a problem for both teams all night as Brantley missed its first, as well, and forced itself to score a TD in overtime rather than attempt a field goal. Both teams start from the 15-yard line in OT, putting them in almost instant FG range for most kickers.
“We’re like a lot of high schools in that we struggle with kicking,” Hayes said.
Things don’t get easier for Baconton next week when it travels to face its biggest rival in Week 2.
“We’ve got Pelham next, and that’s a huge game for the towns and our kids,” Hayes said. “We’ve got to improve some things fast.”
REALLY, MOTHER NATURE?: Southland coach Tim Goodin, in his nearly 30 years in coaching, had never seen anything like it.
“We didn’t kick off until 9:30, which is something I’ve never seen, and we were in a weather delay with no rain,” he said. “There might have been two drops the entire two hours we waited around.”
The issue, of course, was lightning hovering all around Tattnall Square’s field in Macon, where coach Clint Morgan was making his debut in the place of GISA legend Barney Hester, who retired last year. Morgan’s first game was a good one, beating Southland, 21-2.
“It was nerve-racking at times waiting and wondering if this game would happen, but once we took the field, we showed that we were ready to play,” Morgan told the Macon Telegraph. “I could not be happier with the effort we showed on both sides of the football”
Goodin, however, was not as displeased with his team as one might imagine, despite the fact the Raiders’ only points came when Tattnall’s punter stepped on the end line during a botched kick, giving Southland a gift two points.
“To be honest, I don’t think they’re 19 points better than us,” Goodin said. “We’re two pretty even teams, they just played better than us (Friday).”
Much of Southland’s troubles stemmed from botched snaps of their own, two of which killed drives on third and short and the other sailed over its punter’s head, making for great field position for Tattnall, which led, 14-0, at halftime. Southland also had a FG try blocked.
Goodin said he also noticed a change in Tattnall from the Hester-era.
“They’re a different team (under Morgan) for sure,” he said. “They’re a very sound team.”
Goodin couldn’t single out one player or playmaker from his team in what was effectively a shutout loss. But he hopes to next week after Southland plays its second straight game on the road (at Brookwood) to begin the season.
“(The schedule) isn’t easy, but it will make us better,” the coach said.
TIFTAREA 39, TERRELL ACADEMY 28: This might’ve been the wildest game in Georgia on Friday.
Just ask Dalton Todd and Raleigh Carlson. They know.
The duo — Todd, a junior QB transfer from Sherwood playing in his first game with the Eagles, and Carlson, Terrell’s leading receiver — hooked up for an incredible combination in a loss to the Panthers, fighting back from a big deficit all night to narrow the gap late thanks to several huge plays.
Let’s just have the numbers speak for themselves:
Todd, 369 passing yards, 98 rushing yards and four TDs.
Carlson, 314 receiving yards, 15 receptions, four scores.
And that was in a loss.
The bulk of Carlson’s yards came on four long pass plays — 49, 52, 59 and 48 yards — that kept the Eagles in the game. But what about Todd? The new kid on the block who just decided to turn a normally run-oriented Terrell team upside down on his first night under center by slinging it all of the field? Records might be falling before he leaves Dawson.
Terrell Academy (0-1) is at Windsor next week.