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Defense shines in Tide loss
Tide defense
Long head coach JT Pollock talks strategy with Xavier Kent (11), Jayven Williams (4) and Malachi Alberic (44) during a recent game. - photo by Dee McLelland, Publisher

The Long County Blue Tide football team opened the month of October with the attitude that they were going to turn things around for the rest of the season. While the scoreboard did not go their way on Friday against the Jeff Davis Yellow Jackets, anybody watching the game would likely tell you that the team has certainly continued to improve with each week. 

In the 29-6 loss on Friday, October 2, the Blue Tide competed with easily their toughest opponent of the year down to the wire, but it was the opening five minutes of the contest that proved to be the difference maker in the game. 

The Tide offense took the field to open the game and picked up 30 yards on two big runs by juniors Cameryn Johnson and Dwayne Rowe (not the last time you will read that name in this article.) However, the offense stalled and were forced to punt from their own 45. 

That is when the first big play of the night happened for the Yellow Jackets. Rowe’s punt skyrocketed to the 16 yard line, but C.J. Parker picked it up and found just enough room to race down his own sideline 84 yards for the return. 

A fumbled snap on the extra point did not phase the Yellow Jackets as the holder Cade Walters found Austin Wood in the endzone for the two-point conversion to give his team the 8-0 lead early in the game. 

Just a few plays into their next drive, the Tide offense made a huge mistake as they fumbled the ball in the backfield. The Jackets recovered at the Tide 11 and had a very short field in front of them. 

The Jackets worked to the 8 yard line before Wood got the call and hit a hole to rumble into the endzone to make the score 15-0 with just over six minutes left to play in the first quarter. 

The Tide offense could not get much started on their next drive and eventually punted the ball back to the Yellow Jackets. Jeff Davis started with the ball on their own 41 and finally had to put a drive together. 

Their first real offensive drive ticked the last five minutes off the clock in the first quarter and went into the second. The Tide defense held strong and eventually forced a fourth and 17 from the Tide 42. 

The Jackets’ offense stayed on the field and went for it. Walters dropped back to pass and found Parker inside the 20. He made a great play on the ball over two Tide defenders and picked up the first down in the red zone. 

The Jackets found more room to run around the left side on the option play to get inside the five yard line. They punched it in from two yards out on the next play to go up 22-0 with 11 minutes left to go in the first half. 

The Tide punted back to the Jackets after a lengthy drive and Jeff Davis worked to midfield before Jayven Williams and EJ Portela forced a fumble that was recovered by Bryant Bleyman at midfield, the first of many big plays by the Tide defense. 

The Yellow Jackets got the ball back after another Tide punt with just over three minutes left in the first half. Jeff Davis moved down inside the Tide 25 before time ran out as they went into halftime up 22-0. 

As both teams were entering the locker room, Veterans’ Stadium went dark. This must have been a switch that flipped for the Tide as a completely different team came out in the second half. 

The Jackets started from their own 20 after a touchback by Chris Garcia, his ninth of the season. Walters looked to pass on a third down from the 15. His pass sailed over his intended receiver’s head and into the waiting arms of Rowe, who galloped 30 yards into the endzone for the touchdown. 

This was the Tide’s first defensive touchdown of the season and their fourth interception, Rowe’s second in two games. Orlando Tellez-Baltazar’s extra point was blocked - his first miss of the year - as the score stood at 22-6. 

The Jackets looked to answer quickly as they picked up 30 yards on their second play. Walters once again rolled out to pass, but it was junior defensive tackle Joe Saddler that made a big play for the Tide. 

He smacked Walters from behind and forced a fumble. Junior linebacker Ruben Guadalupe picked up the ball and raced back 50 yards for the touchdown, seemingly making the game at least a 10-point difference. However, a block in the back penalty negated the touchdown but still gave the Tide the ball at the Jeff Davis 24. 

The Tide offense went to work with a ton of momentum and got down to the 10. Sophomore quarterback Quintin Golden got the call on a keeper and got into the endzone, but a holding call negated the touchdown. The Tide eventually turned the ball over on a Golden interception as the Yellow Jackets took over at their own 48. 

The Tide defense had just enough momentum behind them to force a Yellow Jacket punt, but the Tide offense could not produce anymore points the rest of the night. 

Jeff Davis added a late touchdown to make the final score 29-6, but the Tide defense showed improvement all night, forcing five turnovers and returning two for touchdowns.

The Tide (0-5) will travel to St. Simon’s Island on Friday, October 9 as they look for their first win of the year against GISA Frederica Academy, who is 2-2 on the year and coming off a 35-7 win over Tide Region 1-AAA foe Brantley County. 

This will be the Tide’s final non-region game of the season before they have a week off and begin region play in Baxley against Appling County on Friday, October 23. 

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