ALPINE -- Winterboro High School’s football team gave up four turnovers and allowed 254 yards rushing in a 41-21 loss to Class 1A, Region 5 foe and No. 9-ranked Spring Garden at Bulldog Stadium on Friday night.
The Panthers benefited from multiple short-field opportunities throughout the contest, including three fumbles by the Bulldogs’ offense and a fumble on a punt return.
“We talked going in (that) we had to win the giveaway/takeaway game,” Winterboro head coach Alan Beckett said. “Our goal was for the kicking game to put them (Spring Garden) inside the 30-yard line. We gave up too many runbacks to the 50 and shortened the field on turnovers. You can’t do that against a Top 10 team, and we did that.
“Credit to them, they do things right … Spring Garden really works hard in the weight room. We’re doing a lot of good things and we’re closing the gap from where we used to be. Now, we’ve got to take that next step and continue to work.”
Spring Garden leapt out to a 21-0 lead with the first touchdown coming near the end of the opening quarter on a fourth-and-10 play where Panthers quarterback Ryley Kirk hit wide receiver Cooper Austin on a 21-yard pass to the back corner of the right end zone. The Panthers added a pair of touchdown runs by running back Luke Welsh (10 yards) and running back Andrew Floyd (3 yards).
Winterboro ended the Panthers’ bid for a shutout near the end of the second quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Jay James. The touchdown play was set up in part by a 21-yard pass from quarterback Jake Travis to fullback Brody Hamm, who corralled the pass that had been tipped by multiple players and rumbled down the left sideline, dragging several Spring Garden defenders along the way. Hamm’s wonky, low extra point cleared the crossbar to make the score 21-7.
Four to know
- Winterboro’s defense forced a turnover on an interception by Kirk to Bulldogs defensive back Jay Headen, who made the play after Spring Garden’s intended receiver knocked the ball up in the air. Bulldogs linebacker Marquez Curry had a shot at another turnover but couldn’t wrangle a tipped pass near the end of the first half. Had he caught it, it may have been a pick-6 and made the contest a one-score affair.
- Spring Garden turned Winterboro’s fumbled punt return, which occurred on a three-and-out to open the third quarter, into a touchdown drive capped with a 3-yard run by Floyd. The Panthers successfully converted the two-point try to go ahead 29-7.
- Headen came up with the Bulldogs’ longest touchdown of the contest. Lined up at quarterback, he took the snap and weaved through the Panthers’ defense for a 67-yard score on Winterboro’s first offensive play of the third quarter.
- Aside from the turnovers, Winterboro’s offense had a productive outing. The Bulldogs churned up 178 yards rushing, and Travis, filling in for an injured Isaiah Holland, went 5 of 6 for 81 yards and a 26-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kameron Edwards in the fourth quarter. He also had two of the Bulldogs’ four fumbles -- one on a reverse play and one where the snap went between his legs.
- Spring Garden head coach Jason Howard on the win: “We’re so young, every week is just another step we’ve got to take to improve and get better ourselves. We got better this week from last week, and that’s what we hope to continue.”
- Beckett on moving forward from the loss: “I just met with our seniors … I want them to do a good job on the daily at practice. I still think we’ve got a good football team and we’ve got a lot ahead of us. When you play teams like this, you go one of two ways -- you take a step forward or take a step back.”
- Winterboro will travel to Anniston to face Donoho on Friday at 7 p.m.
- Spring Garden has another road trip Friday as the Panthers head to Notasulga for a 7 p.m. showdown.