LUDOWICI, GA -- The Long County Blue Tide football team knew they would be faced with a challenge when they hosted the No. 3 Appling County Pirates in their Region 1-AAA opener on Friday, Oct. 8.
The Pirates arrived in Ludowici Friday ranked third in the classification and they showed why they are considered one of the best teams in the state.
Appling County was helped out by a huge mistake by the Tide on the opening kickoff as the Pirates took over at the Tide 25 after a fumble on the return.
Just a few plays later and less than a minute into the game, the Pirates got into the endzone on a Dennis Mims run from 14 yards out to make the score 7-0.
The Tide offense took over at their own 20 after a touchback, but a false start followed by an offensive pass interference call pushed them back inside their own 10.
They were not able to get much rolling from there as they were forced to punt on a three and out and the Pirates fielded the punt at their own 46.
The Pirates moved down the field and were in Tide territory at the 42 before a facemask moved the ball up to the 27.
Freshman quarterback Dayson Griffis found receiver and University of Georgia commit Darris Smith from 27 yards out to put his team up 14-0.
The Blue Tide finally gained a little momentum as sophomore Ahmari Douglas broke open a 70- yard return on the ensuing kickoff to the Appling 20 yard line.
Two consecutive illegal procedure penalties on the Tide offense backed them up to the 30 and the stout run defense of the Pirates led the Tide to go to the air.
Zion Ervin’s pass attempt to the goal line was intercepted and returned to the 20 yard line.
The Pirates were able to break open a long run down to the Tide 31 and punctuated the first quarter with a 21-yard touchdown run to take the 21-0 lead into the second quarter.
The Tide defense played much better in the second quarter as they allowed just one score in the quarter.
The Pirates took the ball from their own 31 after a Tide punt but got a big run down to the Tide 35.
They drove down to the five yard line, which was helped out by a defensive pass interference call in the endzone.
The Pirates capped off the drive with a five yard run to make the score 28-0 with just under six minutes left in the half.
The Tide offense finally got some momentum as they picked up their first first down of the game on the ensuing drive and got into Pirate territory before being forced to punt the ball away.
The Tide went into the locker room down 28-0 as the Pirates prepared to receive the opening kickoff of the second half.
The Pirates started just outside their own 40 and drove into Tide territory.
Following a key second down play, there was some shoving between two players, which led to punches being thrown.
This resulted in a Tide and Pirate player being ejected from the game, which means they will both miss the next two games as a result.
This led to the Pirates getting a big pass to Smith down to the one yard line and punching in the ball to increase their lead to 34-0.
The Pirates forced the Tide to punt again and Dwayne Rowe’s punt was partially blocked as the Pirates took over at the Tide 45.
Quarterback Patrick Crosby found Camden Hickox over the middle as he raced for 45 yards for the score to put his team up 41-0.
Douglas’ hard running on the night finally paid off as he broke open a big 50-yard run late in the quarter that saw him break several tackles and being one stumble away from scoring from 70 yards out.
The Tide, however, could not take advantage of the field position as they sputtered and turned the ball over on downs to the Pirates after a big sack on Ervin.
The fourth quarter opened with a running clock, but the Tide did not back down.
Josiah Ansorena-Smith ran hard all night and he finally broke open a long run as he was able to score from 65 yards out to make the final score 41-8.
With their first loss at home this year, the Tide fall to 3-4 and 0-1 in the Region 1-AAA.
They will travel to Brantley County next week in a key region game that will likely decide the fourth seed in the region for the state playoffs.