WARNER ROBINS – All week, Colquitt County coach Justin Rogers had been trying to convince his team of the benefits of getting off to a quick start against Northside-Warner Robins when the two teams met Friday at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
The Packers, ranked No. 3 in Class 7A, took their coaches’ admonition to heart and in fact scored a touchdown two minutes before the game was officially supposed to start.
The game officials allowed Northside to kickoff a little before the 7:30 p.m. official start time.
Colquitt’s Orion Bonner took the shortish kick on the Packers 23.
He streaked 77 yards to the Northside end zone to give the Packers a 6-0 just 15 seconds into the game. It was only 7:28 p.m., Rogers said.
Some fans might still have been trying to find a dry place to sit.
Rogers said he looked at his watch and mentioned to an official that his team had put points on the scoreboard before the game was actually scheduled to kick off.
The pre-game prayer at Rip Hewes Stadium in Dothan the week before had run a little long and the Packers had to hustle to get ready for the kickoff against the Wolves.
Rogers laughed and wanted to make sure people knew that the game in Warner Robins started early and that he and his team were not, in fact, late to line up for the opening kickoff a second week in a row.
Regardless of the time, the Bonner touchdown and the first of nine extra point conversions by Emmanuel Perez got the Packers off to the kind of start Rogers wanted.
Colquitt, now 4-0, scored later in the quarter on a touchdown pass from Xavier Williams to Baby D Wheeler and the Packers were on their way to a second-straight nine-touchdown, 63-point effort.
The offense cruised, but Rogers was impressed that it handled a Northside defense different from the one the Packers had expected and prepared for.
The Eagles crowded the box, effectively stymieing the Packers running game, which managed just 39 net yards on 15 carries.
But the young offensive line identified the change, made adjustments and helped allow Williams and Zane Touchton to pass for 321 yards and six touchdowns.
The Eagles defense also left the corners to deal with the Packer wideouts with little help.
“They kept giving us big plays,” Rogers said. “When we can get Lemeke (Brockington) one-on-one, I like my chances.”
The Packers erupted for 28 points in the second quarter and led 42-0 at the half.
Rogers said it might be more difficult for teams to find ways to play with enthusiasm when the stands are not holding as many fans as the players are used to seeing and hearing.
That was certainly the case on the misty and drizzly Friday night in Warner Robins in a stadium that could hold no more than 1,200 fans because of virus concerns.
There probably were only 350 or so of the Packer faithful. It was not nearly as loud as a typical Friday night in the Hog Pen.
“I was pleased that we were able to go out and provide our own energy,” Rogers said.
It was a long night for the Eagles, who suffered a blocked field goal, a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown, two snaps over the quarterback’s head, three interceptions and a fumble.
And Northside was unable to convert several scoring opportunities close to the Colquitt County goal line.
The first of those came in the first quarter, when trailing just 7-0, the Eagles drove a first down at the Colquitt 8, but were forced to attempt a field goal that was blocked by TJ Spradley.
Even more egregious was the snap over the quarterback’s head on a first-and-goal from the Colquitt 1 with just under 10 minutes left in the second quarter.
The ball bounded out to the Northside 23 where Colquitt’s Traveon Tuff scooped it up and took 77 yards to the end zone.
On the next Northside possession, Spradley picked off an Elijah Robinson pass, leading to a Williams-to-Brockington touchdown throw of 12 yards that put the Packers up 28-0.
Northside failed to move after the kickoff and punted the ball back to Colquitt County.
On the second play, Williams floated a perfect pass to Brockington, who outraced the Eagles to complete an 82-yard touchdown and Colquitt led 35-0 with 5:39 left in the half.
But Northside’s first-half troubles were not over.
Two plays after the kickoff, another snap sailed over Robinson’s head and was covered 14 yards behind the line of scrimmage at the Eagles’ 8.
After a run lost another yard, Northside tried to punt its way out of trouble, but the Packers blocked it and Jaheim Ward recovered in the end zone to put the Packers up 42-0.
Northside displayed a spark on its next possession, driving from its own 20 to a first down at the Colquitt 7.
But again, the Eagles stalled and Tuff picked off a fourth-down Robinson pass to end the threat just before halftime.
Northside, which declined to approve a running clock in the third quarter, received the second-half kickoff, but went three-and-out and punted.
Six plays later, Williams connected with tight end Landon Thomas on an 18-yard touchdown pass and Colquitt was up 49-0.
The Eagles finally scored with 6:38 left in the third quarter, able at last to turn a first down inside the Colquitt 10 into a touchdown.
But Colquitt wasted little time trumping that score.
On a first down at the Northside 24, Touchton connected with Qwa McCoy in the end zone. It was the first reception and first touchdown for the sophomore receiver and it put Colquitt up 56-7.
Again, Northside matched the Packers score, driving 70 yards to a second Robinson-to-Centavious Lowe touchdown pass.
A Colquitt interception ended the next Northside possession and led to a 48-yard touchdown pass from Touchton to Nick Pace.
Although Colquitt did have a first-quarter field goal attempt blocked, the Packers did not lose a fumble or throw an interception in the damp conditions.
And the Packers were sure-footed on the long runs: the 77-yard kickoff return by Bonner, the 77-yard bad snap return by Tuff and the 82-yard Williams-to-Brockington touchdown pass.
“We played a lot of guys, even in the first half,” Rogers said of the game, which will be the last on the road until the Packers travel to Tift County on Nov. 13
The Packers have now scored 201 points in their four games.
Colquitt is not scheduled to play on Friday, but Rogers said he is continuing to try to find an opponent for that night.
With coronavirus outbreaks still canceling and postponing games around the state, any of the four remaining schedule games could be called off.
“We really would like to play,” he said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen now.”
But if the Packers are unable to play, Rogers will use the off-week to help his players deal with nagging injuries and mental fatigue.
Colquitt will be back home on Friday, Oct. 23, to meet Alcove in the Homecoming game.