FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Braves drop crucial region game: Trojans and Dawgs roll
Baldwin – 16
Perry – 33
PERRY – The Braves' offense had more than 250 yards in the first half and 7 yards in the second half. Yes, you read that correctly – 250 yards in the first half and 7 in the second.
Baldwin (4-3, 1-2) led 16-9 at halftime, thanks to a barrage of big plays. Star tailback Micah Welch, a Colorado Buffaloes verbal commitment, rushed 12 times for 153 yards in the first half for the Braves. It appeared as if Welch would give his team a 22-9 lead right before halftime, taking off down the sideline on a huge run before ultimately being tackled at the Panthers' 9-yard line with less than 20 seconds to go in the half. Following that, however, were three straight incompletions and the halftime horn, and the score remained 16-9.
The Panthers, ranked No. 4 in GHSA Class AAAA, ultimately proved to be too much for Baldwin, which now must scramble to make the state playoffs. Perry prevailed despite playing without starting quarterback Colton Ginn. An afterthought for most of its football-playing history, Perry has now won three region championships in a row and is looking to make it four.
Rarely, if ever, is there such a large disparity in production between a first half and a second half. Baldwin actually had more turnovers in the second half – two – than it did first downs – 1. That one first down of the second half came with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter and the outcome already decided. Welch was limited to 5 carries for 9 yards in the final two quarters.
With the loss, the Braves are all but eliminated from the region championship race, which would make five straight seasons without a region title for the program. The good news is that Baldwin will now have two straight home games – next Friday night against West Laurens and Oct. 27 vs. Westside.
Stratford – 6
John Milledge – 40
The Trojans' defense apparently was in a bad mood on Friday night following a pair of subpar performances. The Eagles never found the end zone, and their six points came courtesy of a pair of field goals.
It was quite a contrast from JMA's previous two games, when the D allowed 28 and 33 points, respectively. For perspective, the Trojans only gave up 77 points during the entire 2022 season. Friday night was more like it, however, and Stratford didn't complete a single pass in the entire game.
The Trojans ran their state-record winning streak to 57 games, while J.T. Wall ran his coaching record to 145-14, a whopping .956 winning percentage.
Javian Butts rushed for almost 300 yards and is now eyeballing a potential 2,000-yard season.
Next up is a trip to Macon to take on FPD, which is playing better football this year. The Vikings were 2-9 in 2021, which included a 56-7 beatdown at the hands of JMA. This year, however, FPD is 4-2-1.
Hancock-Central – 22
GMC Prep – 34
The Dawgs are now clearly in the state playoff hunt following a victory over the other Bulldogs from across the river.
GMC's offense rebounded very nicely after being shut out by Wilkinson County last Friday night.
There are six teams in GHSA Region 5-A Division 2, and four will make the state playoffs. Johnson County and Wilkinson County appear to be shoo-ins, which leaves GMC (2-6, 1-1), Hancock Central, Glascock County and Twiggs County battling for the final two spots. Friday's win over Hancock was crucial for GMC and now gives the squad the head-to-head tiebreaker. Next up for GMC is a road trip to Glasock County. The Panthers are having their best season in almost 15 years and currently stand at 3-5, which is excellent by Glascock standards. Twiggs County, meanwhile, is completely hapless, as well as winless, and has only scored four touchdowns all season.