HOWELL’S COVE -- Talladega County Central made just enough plays late to hold off Class 1A, Region 3 opponent Donoho 18-14 on Thursday night.
TC Central head coach Chris Mahand wasn’t pleased with his team’s performance, but he will take the win.
“It wasn’t pretty, give credit to Donoho,” Mahand said. “They came out here and fought tooth and nail. They fought extremely hard. They are a very gritty team. That is what I tried to tell my boys all week long. You can’t just look at this team’s record and expect that you are playing a team that doesn’t want to win. Like I told them, nobody practices all week to come to a game to lose.
“Donoho didn’t come here to lose, they came here to win a football game and they showed it tonight. We didn’t show the toughness that we needed to show on the field tonight. We are not making excuses, there is no hangover from last week’s game (a 25-19 win over Winterboro in overtime). We don’t do excuse at TC, we get results. … Donoho played well tonight, and we didn’t play well tonight. Like always, I would rather win ugly than lose pretty. We just have to get better if we expect to make a run in the playoffs.”
Darrell Maple had a big game for the Fighting Tigers. The senior quarterback accounted for 254 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
Maple led TC Central down the field on the opening possession for a touchdown after returning the opening kickoff 50 yards to the Donoho 43-yard line. It didn’t take long for the Fighting Tigers to capitalize on the good field position. Maple connected with Ricky Duncan for a 14-yard touchdown to make it 6-0 with 8:11 left in the first quarter.
The Falcons answered on their ensuing possession. Noah Wright connected with Buddy Ray Jr. for a 69-yard touchdown. The extra point gave Donoho a 7-6 lead with 4:36 left in the opening quarter.
TC Central’s Kylen Cross had a relatively quiet game, rushing for 76 yards, but he was able to make his biggest impact in the passing game. Maple dumped off a short pass to Cross, who broke several arm tackles and then broke free down the right sideline for a 60-yard touchdown to give the Fighting Tigers a 12-7 edge with 8:07 left in the second quarter.
TC Central added another touchdown on its next possession.
The Fighting Tigers’ defense forced a three-and-out, which gave the offense the ball at the Falcons’ 43. On the first play of the drive, Maple found Devilyn Keller down the left sideline for a 35-yard completion to set up first-and-goal at the 8. Cross would score his second touchdown of the game on the next play to push the Fighting Tigers’ advantage to 18-7 with 5:35 left in the first half.
In the second half, Donoho’s defense came up with big plays.
On TC Central’s opening possession, Maple was picked off by Ray at the Fighting Tigers’ 46, and Donoho was able to capitalize off the turnover. Taj Patel capped off a six-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 18-14 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.
Donoho missed an opportunity to put a drive together in the fourth period after taking over at the Fighting Tigers’ 45 following a punt.
On second-and-6 at the 41, Donoho tried to catch TC Central off guard with a halfback pass. Patel’s pass was picked off by Datravian Tuck at the 20.
“(Datravian) made a solid play for me,” Mahand said. “This is actually his first year playing football. He is in the 10th grade, and I am definitely expecting some big things out of him. We stuck him in there Week 3. He is still growing. He is coming up and making a lot of good hits for me, and he made a big-time interception for me tonight. That’s just another one of my young kids that I am expecting a lot out of the next few years.”
The Fighting Tigers ran the final 6:01 off the clock with their ground attack of Maple and Cross to seal the victory.
“It’s just like I told my team, football is a game of inches and a game of a few plays,” Donoho head coach Mark Sanders said. “We just have those few plays that we needed to win this game. It was close; my boys played a heck of a game. They got after it and they fought. They battled tooth and nail the whole way; we just came up short. That’s life sometimes. I saw a lot of fight and heart from my team, and that’s what I wanted to see tonight.”