MOULTRIE – Coaches in football say it all the time: take what the defense gives you.
Warner Robins High came to Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium Friday determined to not give Colquitt County High any reason to celebrate huge milestones. As much as the Demons’ plan to hold down senior running back Daijun Edwards was the best anyone’s had in Edwards’ career dating back to 2016, it wasn’t enough to stop the ultimate game celebration: victory.
That’s because, facing a consistently loaded box, quarterback Jaycee Harden completed 23 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns. The Packers, looking for better results after last weekend’s 50-49 loss at Valdosta High, won 31-14 for a 3-1 record while Warner Robins lost for the first time under first-year head coach Marquis Westbrook.
Lemeke Brockington caught three of the touchdowns and had nine receptions overall for 97 yards. The other touchdown went to Tajh Sanders, who in six catches gained 114 yards.
Edwards ran the football 11 times but could only net 26 yards. That left him 20 yards short of Colquitt County’s all-time career rushing yards record, and he stayed at 58 career touchdowns, still one away from tying the school mark.
Colquitt County also entered the game banged up on the defensive side and left it … banged up even more. Still, those who made it through the four quarters held the high-powered Demons to one offensive touchdown. That’s a drastic reduction from what the Wildcats did at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium just seven days prior. It’s often been said about this defense that it bends but doesn’t break, and on Friday the Demons had such a low point total despite around 440 yards from scrimmage.
Starters Desmen Davis, Callon Kubiak, Jordan Calhoun and Zy Brockington did not play, and during the game safety Traveon Tuff suffered a broken ankle. But those who shined include Omarion Daniels and his 61-yard interception return from the opposite end zone and Zy Barfield’s game-ending quarterback sack.
Right away, Harden saw he would need to loosen things up and completed his first six passes in a game-opening touchdown drive. The key play wasn’t any of the throws, but the Demons’ 12-men-on-the-field penalty on 4th-and-3. The Packers were in punt formation, but instead saw the sticks move for first down on the CC 38-yard-line. Harden then connected on four passes in a row, the last one of seven yards to L. Brockington at 8:03. Jason Gallardo kicked the PAT for 7-0 Colquitt.
For the rest of the period, the Packer offense made just one more first down. Stops by tackle Marcus Ponder, Desmond Reese and JaPaul Lewis ended the two Warner Robins drives.
The Packers had the ball to start the second quarter and moved into Demon territory. Warner Robins’ Jatavious Bryant intercepted Harden deep at the 13.
The visitors, however, were marred by more penalties and couldn’t make up ground on a holding call. From midfield, they punted away to a spot where the Packers doubled their lead. In six plays, the hosts went 73 yards, 49 on a strike from Harden to Tyler Walker.
Harden, from the 12, connected with Brockington for the second time in the end zone. With Gallardo’s kick, the lead went to 14-0 at 6:22 until halftime.
The shutout ended with a Play of the Year candidate turned in by highly-touted Demon receiver Marcayll Jones. From the Packer 49, he hauled in a Jalen Addie heave one-handed at the 20. He proceeded to sprint the rest of the way at 2:29.
In the remaining time, Harden developed another hot streak with his receivers running solid routes. His team was pinned inside its 20, but Harden completed four in a row for 84 yards. Sanders caught the touchdown throw of 32 yards with 38 seconds on the clock.
Gallardo kicked the Packers to a 21-7 halftime lead. Harden’s first-half passing numbers were 16 completions for 282 yards, so the second half was certainly a dogfight.
Milton Barfield made his mark stopping the first Warner Robins series of the second half. He read the option by Addie for lost yards, and it was a three-and-out. The Demons then shanked their punt for only 15 yards to the WR 39.
Gallardo, after missing the potential game-winning field goal at Valdosta, was good on a 34-yard kick at 8:03 of the third quarter (24-7 Packers).
Both defenses were on display as Reese smothered Jones for lost yards. The Demons countered recovering a fumble in great field position at the Packer 26. They moved up to the 4 only to fumble a snap and fall on it way back at the 19. Addie through for the end zone on 3rd-and-goal, but Daniels picked off the throw and sped all the way to the WR 39.
Harden found Brockington on consecutive throws, one on 3rd-and-8 for 16 yards at the 10, and the other resulting in Brockington’s third touchdown at the seven-second mark. The Packers took a 31-7 lead into the final period, one where special teams made the most impact. Z. Barfield covered the kickoff forcing Warner Robins to start from its 5.
Each team was also hit with holding and personal fouls through the fourth. The Demons did what they could to gain yards, but Reese, Z. Barfield and Zakias Boyd came through to prevent them from reaching the goal line.
It was also an up and down game for punter Tucker Pitts. Warner Robins scored blocking a punt at 2:57 of the fourth, but Pitts also bashed two such kicks over 50 yards (one in each half). After the TD, he sent Warner Robins back to its 16, where Jones pulled off one more big reception of 59 yards. But it only put the Demons over the 400-yard mark.