Through much of the first half, it was a back-and-forth affair, but the lack of depth on the Titans’ sideline proved costly. Etowah’s John Oliver was the only quarterback on the Titan roster, while the Giants had the luxury of rotating three quarterbacks.
The difference in depth could be seen at other position as well, or by simply looking at the number of players on their respective sidelines.
The Titans’ roster was filled primarily with players from Creekview, Cherokee, Etowah, Woodstock, Woodland and Cass. There were few players from the other schools from the two counties. Adairsville had just four, while Sequoyah had two. River Ridge did not have any seniors participate.
Creekview’s Terry Crowder coached the Titans and said the best part was getting to work with players from other schools.
“It’s tough coming together for just three days to learn and offense and a defense, and we were kind of outmanned coming into this thing,” Crowder said. “We had a good time. I think the kids enjoyed it. It was good to be around these other coaches and kids. It was a good experience. What’s really fun is getting to see kids interact with each other.”
Giants quarterbacks Chase Noonan, Mitchell Webb and Chandler Burks combined for more than 200 passing yards, but it was Webb who spent the most time in the position. He finished 7-for-13 passing for 147 yards, and added 68 yards on four carries.
Burks seemed to spend a little time everywhere on the field. He was just 2-for-4 passing for 20 yards, but led his team with 127 rushing yards on six carries and tacked on 61 yards with two receptions. In all, the Kennesaw State commitment accounted for 205 yards off offense and two touchdowns.
The Titans struggled to gain yards on the ground. With 5 minutes left in the first quarter, they were trailing 21-6. Their lone touchdown had come on a 30-yard pass from Oliver to Etowah teammate Brandon Engle.
But during a 7-minute run bridging the first and second quarters, the Titans put together an impressive run.
First, Oliver found Cherokee’s Blace Brown for a 21-yard touchdown, and the point by Creekview’s Ben McClellan cut the deficit to 21-13.
After stopping the Giants’ offense for the first time all game, the Titans awaited a punt to open the second quarter. The punt was short and bounced near the sideline before Creekview’s Ben Rowell scooped it up and ran 30 yards for a touchdown. The Titans went for the 2-point conversion and tied the game at 21-all when Brown caught a pass from Oliver on the goal line.
Once more, the Giants were kept out of the end zone on its next possession. A 39-yard field goal attempt by Josh Klein struck the crossbar, and the Titans took over on downs.
A 70-yard drive was then capped by a 7-yard pass from Oliver to Creekview’s Isaiah Rodgers, and the Titans maintained a 28-21 lead for roughly 3 minutes until Webb broke away for a 57-yard touchdown.
By the end of the first half, the Giants led 44-28. The Titans were held scoreless in the second half and eventually played with a running clock in the fourth quarter.
Brown led the Titans with six catches for 82 yards. Not far behind was Creekview’s Connor Dulmage, who had six catches for 64 yards.
Dulmage’s biggest play came following his team’s first offensive series. The Titans lost yards and were forced to punt from their own end zone. McClellan’s kick bounced down the field, covering more than 50 yards. When a Giants player attempted to return the ball, he fumbled it and Dulmage made the recovery to give the Titans new life, on the way to scoring their first touchdown.
The greatest things the players took away from the game was not only the time spent on the field with one another, but in practice during the week. The event brought together players who normally don’t match up.
Oliver said it was fun to play with different players, and run a different style of offense.
“There are a lot of good kids in the county, we are just spread out through a lot of schools,” he said. “It was good competition we were playing against. It was tough to learn an offense in three days, but it was a lot of fun. It was wide-open. I had almost complete control and had a lot of fun.”
Cherokee’s Brandon Hrouda said that while the Titans’ players are all competitive, and want to win each time they are on the field, the score didn’t matter much Saturday.
“Coming together as a county was pretty cool,” Hrouda said. “I liked playing with everyone that we have been playing. Of course, the score matters, but in the end, it didn’t matter as much, because we all came together to play.”