By Kevin Price
For GCS Athletics
Now, that was Glynn Academy football as we’ve come to know it in the Rocky Hidalgo era.
On a cold and damp evening at Glynn County Stadium, the Red Terrors were on fire as they combined a punishing rushing attack with a ball-hawking defense to post a convincing 31-7 victory over perennial power Tucker on Friday night in the first round of the Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
The Terrors (6-4) led from start to finish, jumping out to a 14-0 lead before taking a 17-7 advantage into halftime. Glynn would add a third-quarter touchdown and another one late in the game to win going away.
Glynn is the No. 2 seed from Region 2 while the Tigers were the third seed from Region 4.
“We’ve just got a group of gritty, pesky kids,” Hidalgo said after the game. “That’s how I would describe us right now. Our kids play really, really hard. You saw that tonight.”
The Terrors have never lost a first-round game under Coach Rock who took over the GA program prior to the 2014 season. The Tigers have now lost in the opening round in back-to-back seasons after having advanced to the second round and beyond since 2006 until last year, going to state championship games four times and winning two of them during their long streak of playoff appearances.
In mid-October, it didn’t look like Glynn would be capable of winning any playoff game as the Terrors were mired in a three-game losing streak and not looking anything like a GA team under Hidalgo. But once again, the Terrors have come on strong as they have now won four straight while playing a better brand of ball especially on defense.
“I felt like we could be a team that could run the football and be good on defense,” Hidalgo said again after Friday’s game. “I think we’re hitting our stride and starting to play good football.”
Glynn was impressive on defense and in the run game when it had the ball against the Tigers who normally are the ones pushing around their opponents.
The GA defense checked the Tigers to only 117 yards rushing with Tucker’s leading rusher managing 52 yards. The Tigers finished with 233 yards with another 116 passing with most of that coming on a couple of long passes.
The Tigers scored their only touchdown on an 80-yard drive late in the first half on a 6-yard run by LaTavius Johnson. On that same series, Tucker converted on third-and-18 with a 37-yard pass to the Glynn 16-yard line and moments later moved the sticks with a fourth-down conversion. Johnson scored on the next play.
“We blew a coverage on that one pass,” Hidalgo said. “We wanted to make them move down the field, make them snap it over and over. All in all, the defense did what we asked them to do.”
And, Glynn’s offense did move the ball methodically against the Tigers. The Terrors churned out 228 yards on the ground and attempted just one pass in the game which went for a 13-yard touchdown.
Junior quarterback TJ Lewis led a balanced ground attack as he carried 23 times for 92 yards and two
touchdowns. Senior running back Nolan Grant followed with 56 yards on 11 attempts, junior Caden Hutchinson ran six times for 41 yards, freshman Jayden Drayton gained 32 yards on seven runs and Jalorean Coleman carried twice for 7 yards.
“We knew big plays were gonna be tough,” Hidalgo said, “but we felt like we could establish the line of scrimmage, create some seams and run the football.”
It was evident early that the wet conditions from overnight and day-long rain would be a factor in the game. Glynn’s Chase Gabriel managed to chase down a punt snap that went over his head and still get a kick away on the game’s opening possession. The Terrors had some more errant snaps throughout the night and also lost the handle on the ball a few times, but managed not to have a turnover.
“It affects how you call the game,” Hidalgo said of the nasty weather and soggy field. “I don’t really like a night like this. You can’t drive block or generate a pass rush like you want.”
GA got the first big break in the game, though, when Byron Bacon blocked a punt on Tucker’s first possession. Glynn got the ball at the Tiger 18 and scored in three plays with Lewis taking the ball across the goal line from a yard out.
The Terrors pushed their lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter with a 66-yard drive which they finished with the 13-yard pass from Lewis to running back Jackson Wakeland on third-and-8. Wakeland slipped out of the back field and was wide-open in the left corner as the Tigers flowed the other way on the play-fake.
Tucker answered that Glynn touchdown with its only scoring drive of the night, but Glynn finished the first half with a drive that started at its own 25 and finished with a 47-yard field goal by Gabriel in the closing seconds that made for the 17-7 tally at intermission. Last week, Gabriel kicked field goals of 52, 52 and 46 yards in the second quarter of GA’s rout of Bradwell Institute.
The third period started with Glynn stopping the Tigers on fourth-and-1 from the GA 40 to get the ball on downs. Just before that, the Tigers had a long TD run called back due to a holding penalty.
The Terrors took over and covered the 60 yards to take full command with their third TD which came on a 7-yard sweeping run by Drayton. Hutchinson had a long run early in the drive for a third-down conversion to move the chains.
Glynn scored its final touchdown with just over three minutes to play after taking possession at the Tucker 38 following a punt by the Tigers from their own end zone. Glynn needed just four plays to hit paydirt with Lewis scoring from 7 yards out for his second rushing score of the game.
Tucker’s final possession ended with an interception by Bacon, and Glynn ran out the final 1:37 while kneeling on the ball from the victory formation.
The Terrors will be on the road in round two next week at Dacula, the state’s top-ranked team. The Falcons (11-0) defeated Dalton 48-19 on Friday night. Dacula is the Region 8 champion.