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Worth wins Region 1-AAAA opener vs. Dougherty

Dougherty’s Ricardo Sloan runs in for a touchdown on a fake field goal in the first quarter of Friday’s game at Hugh Mills Stadium as Worth County’s Avery Parker (No. 26) tries to make the tackle. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

Dougherty’s Ricardo Sloan runs in for a touchdown on a fake field goal in the first quarter of Friday’s game at Hugh Mills Stadium as Worth County’s Avery Parker (No. 26) tries to make the tackle. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

ALBANY — It was a tale of two weeks for the Worth County Rams as they began region play at Hugh Mills Stadium Friday night.

Fresh off a 49-14 home drubbing at the hands of Class AAAAA neighbors Tift County, the Rams played the role of unruly guest this week, knocking off Dougherty, 42-21.

To say Worth County’s rushing game was a stark contrast from last week would be putting it lightly. The Rams ran over, around, and through the Trojans defense, piling up 205 yards on the ground in the first half alone.

“We blocked a little better than we did last week,” Rams head coach Jason Tone said, “and we didn’t make as many mistakes defensively. We still missed a bunch of tackles, but that’s something we’re still working on.”

The rushing attack set the tone from start to finish; the Rams ran the ball four straight times on their first possession, which left the Trojans susceptible to the play-action fake. On the very next play, Tay Curry faked a handoff, rolled out to his right, and connected with Dontavious Hooks for a 43-yard touchdown. The drive took just 1:11 off the clock.

“The offensive line kept their pad level low, and kept knocking them off the ball. Everything’s about leverage on the line.”

Though the Trojans would respond with a seven-play, 48-yard drive of their own to tie the game at eight points apiece, in the end, they just couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot. Despite showing signs of life throughout both halves, high snaps and fumbles cut multiple drives short inside Worth County territory; and at times, the defense just couldn’t get the Rams off the field on third and fourth downs. The Trojans turned the ball over three times, while the Rams managed to hold on to the ball all game.

I think the offense did much better than what they’ve done in past weeks,” said Trojans head coach Corey Joyner. “We made some big improvements, but there’s too much inconsistency in the red zone. We missed on three chances to score close to the goal line.”

Worth County head coach Jason Tone was quick to allude to the Rams’ room for improvement. “Silly penalties, substitution errors, things like that,” Tone pointed out. “It was a good first region game though, I won’t take anything from the kids.”

“The effort and intensity they played with was impressive,” he said. “Especially early on, I thought they bounced back well. Hopefully we can use this for momentum towards the future.”

Senior tailback Quantavious Sweney led the way for the Rams once again, this time churning out 121 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries. Worth County rushed for 309 yards as a team, averaging just over eight yards per carry.

“We’re still battling the number issues,” Joyner said. The Rams’ depth left the Trojans defense gassed for much of the second half; since they could choose from four capable tailbacks, neither of them were worn down by the end of the game. “We still have to tackle. We were in position to make plays on third and fourth downs and just didn’t make tackles.”

“They were bouncing to the outside,” Sweney said afterwards. “We caught on to that and just ran it up the middle. My offensive line helped out a lot. They made the holes for us and we just hit them.”

“We talked about it all week,” Joyner said. “Guys not peeking into the backfield and giving up big plays. We gave up touchdowns on two play action passes. Little things like that, we aren’t doing right. We know we have a good shot at making the playoffs if we can win five region games, and there’s a lot we need to improve on if we want to make that run.”

The Trojans will travel to Cordele next week to face Crisp County, and Joyner is guarded, yet optimistic about his team’s chances.

“I watched them play against Cook County,” Joyner said. “They have a great defense, their offense is moving slowly right now, but they have great playmakers on offense we’ll have to look out for. They run a more traditional offense, though, so hopefully we’ll do better. The Wing-T (that Worth County runs) is something difficult for young players like ours to prepare for.”

Dougherty quarterback Michael Whatley went 12-for-22 for 217 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Trojans receiver Ricardo Sloan led the way for the home team, grabbing seven catches for 90 yards and two total touchdowns, while Steven Jenkins added three catches, 110 yards, and a touchdown of his own, coming on a 67-yard pitch and catch in the third quarter. Tailback LaDarrien Royal rushed for 67 yards on 11 carries in the loss.

The Trojans fell to 0-4 on the season, and 0-1 in region play. Worth County moved to 2-2 overall, and are 1-0 in the region. The Rams are on the road next week, as they’ll travel to take on Americus-Sumter.