The North Tattnall Middle School (NTMS) Warriors took on the Metter Tigers at Danny Scott Stadium on Thursday, September 15, 2022.
NTMS was 2-1, having defeated South Tattnall and Claxton and lost to Toombs County. Metter had narrowly lost to Claxton, and the ever-tough Emanuel County Institute (ECI) Bulldogs and had beaten South Tattnall for a record of 1-2. Both teams were in contention for the playoffs, along with Claxton, Screven County, Emanuel County Institute, and Toombs County. The sunny day promised warm but good weather for football. The North Tattnall team honored three teachers as honorary team captains, picked by the player captains for the game. Ms. Deedee Collins, Ms. Jesse Clifton, and Ms. Rikki Lamb were recognized during the coin toss.
Metter won the toss, so the navy-jersey Warriors received the kick. Sion Nichols scooped the ball and sped toward the home sidelines, following the blocks of Henrion Pridgeon and MJ Foreman to the Metter 34-yard line. The Warriors rode the strong legs of Keyon Calhoun, Elijah Harton, and Nichols, overcoming penalties to score their first points when Calhoun spun around at the five, escaped a tackle, and rushed into the end zone. Lincoln Shuman, faking to Calhoun, evaded a tackler to hit a diving Harton for the two-point play. Christian Butler and Pridgeon had opened several lanes off tackle, while Matthew Waters, Kenley Davis, Demetrius Starnes, and Cory Steedley kept the Metter defense at bay on the first possession.
Michael Bonilla placed his kickoff perfectly at the 30-yard line with no return. The defense changed the course of the game when Calhoun foiled an attempted reverse and caused a fumble that Foreman recovered at the Metter 15-yard line. The offense again, overcoming penalties, made enough yardage for Shuman to fake, then roll out behind Steedley and Davis to find Akeem Jinks in the corner of the home end zone for a touchdown. Waters, Starnes, and Butler held off the defensive charge long enough for Harton to make another diving catch at the sideline for the two-point conversion. With 3:45 minutes left in the first quarter, the Warriors had roared to a 16-0 lead. After Jack James, Collins Shuman, Nichols, Pridgeon, and Harton led the defense to another stop, Nichols sped into the end zone on a breakaway run behind Butler’s second-level block. Although the point-after touchdown failed, the Warriors held a commanding lead of 22-0, with than less a minute gone in the second quarter. The game seemed already won.
Yet football has its surprises, especially at the middle school level. The Warriors slowed the Tiger offense down during the next series, but the Tiger squad had come to play and did not let the lead get them down. Steadily, they made their way downfield, scoring a touchdown on their quarterback’s run around end with 2:02 minutes left in the half. Although the Warriors made yardage on the next series, they punted. Metter, rising to the challenge of their rivals, struck suddenly, as split end Acevedo split the defensive backfield to score on a 60-yard touchdown reception. The Tigers, inspired by the quick score, rushed into the end zone to cut the lead to 22-14 with their two-point conversion. The Warriors responded with a drive down the field that ended with an incomplete pass at the Metter 15-yard line.
The Tigers received the kickoff from Bonilla, and their hard-charging fullback ground out a first down. The Tigers seemed ready to take over the game. At midfield, the defensive line of Jovany Delgado, Starnes, and Pridgeon began to defeat blocks and give their good linebacking group excellent support. The defense, again, had turned the tide. Forced to punt, the Metter kicker punted dead at the NTMS 30. Then a promising play for NTMS went awry, as, after a seven-yard gain, a fumble gave the ball back to Metter at the NTMS 44-yard line, and the white-clad Tigers rejoiced. Once more, the NTMS defense, still led by Harton, James, and Calhoun, stiffened and forced a punt, but the punt went out of bounds at the NTMS 14-yard line.
As the evening shadows lengthened across Danny Scott Field, the offense was challenged to take the game in hand with only an eight-point lead. James, led by Foreman and Nichols, used Jinks as a shield as he swept by to turn the corner by the visiting bench, moving the ball 35 yards to midfield. From there, despite minor injuries, the offensive group gave enough time for Nichols to use his burst of speed to get first downs. The key play was a 12-yard keeper by L. Shuman that went out of bounds at the two-yard line. Waters, Starnes, Butler, and Pridgeon drove the Tiger line back enough for Nichols to plunge into the end zone for his second touchdown. Shuman also faked and kept the ball for the two-point conversion to give the Warriors some breathing room with a two-touchdown lead, as they had before Metter had charged at the end of the first half.
In the next series, the defensive front kept up the pressure, as Metter desperately tried to move the ball downfield, remembering the two touchdowns they had scored late in the second quarter. Pridgeon stopped one play, Harton made another tackle for loss, and L. Shuman defended a deep pass to his coverage area to deny them the chance. Marcel Jackson got pressure from the blindside of the plays as Metter attempted to score through the air. At the end of the series, two bad snaps ended the chances for the Tigers to come from behind, as Foreman tackled the punter inside the Metter five-yard line. The Warriors gave the ball to Nichols, who followed Steedley, Davis, and Foreman into the end zone. The two-point play was converted on a deflected pass by the defensive back James caught at the back of the end zone.
The Warriors could breathe easier, though they still respected Metter’s ability to strike quickly. In the remainder of the fourth quarter, the Warriors gave some of their younger players time on the field. Owen Tucker and Mason Myers, among others, gave a good account of themselves. KryShaun Downey made an impressive wide run, and Rodney Cathcart gamely tried to convert a first down off tackle.
In the end, the Warriors were 3-1, with the possibility of the playoffs looming for their game with Bryan County next week. The game will be played at Danny Scott Memorial Stadium on September 22 at 5 p.m. with admission being $5. The players and coaches would like to encourage all Tattnall fans to come and support the team, as they continue on their quest have a winning season.