GADSDEN — As the Gadsden City Titans proved they could connect on long pass plays as well as they could break off runs up the middle, it made the challenge of defending just that much more difficult for Fort Payne.
Gadsden City produced a balanced offensive outing and scored three straight second-half touchdowns to pull away from the Wildcats for a 45-20 win at Titan Stadium on Thursday night.
“It was a double-edged sword... It’s tough to cover everything they do when they’re that good at what they do,” Wildcats coach Chris Elmore said.
Brady Troup was 13 of 18 passing for 279 yards with no interceptions and a 48-yard touchdown pass to JaQuan Woods to give the Titans (2-0) a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter. Gadsden City rushed for 207 yards, led by CJ Miller’s 107 yards on 12 carries with two TDs.
J.D. Blalock completed 4 of 10 passes for 70 yards with no interceptions and rushed for 60 yards on nine carries for the Wildcats (0-2).
After falling behind by two scores, Fort Payne reached the end zone when Ashton Brown broke free along the left side for a 34-yard scoring run early in the second quarter.
A short punt by the Titans led to Fort Payne setting up its next possession with good field position on Gadsden City’s 35-yard line. Blalock hit Cam Thomas for a 33-yard gain before Darwin Camp punched in a 1-yard run to tie things at 14 with 8:41 remaining in the opening half.
“We felt like it was going to be hard to throw on (the Titans), but we also thought that we could maybe get a double move on them,” Elmore said. “J.D. made a great throw and then we got a good special teams play off a bad punt that gave us good field position. One of our young running backs made a great run and got us in the end zone.”
The Titans regained the lead for good at 21-14 less than a minute later, running free up the middle for a 57-yard TD.
Gadsden City added to its success by picking up a safety with 1:35 left in the half after a punt set up the Wildcats on their own 4.
Scoring runs by DeMarcus Macon, Artavious Hicks and Miller extended the Titans’ advantage to 45-14 before Kaden Dubose capped a late Wildcats drive with a 6-yard scoring run.
“(The Titans) had some good matchups on the perimeter and I think our guys were trying really hard,” Elmore said. “They made some good throws and good catches and sometimes that’s football. You can be in coverage and have a chance on the ball, but if the other team makes a good throw and catch, sometimes there’s nothing you can do.
“It was tough. We were trying everything we could try defensively, but there were a couple of problems. We had to make sure we had enough people in there to defend the run because they were so good at that and that left us with a lot of one-on-one situations outside, which is not good either.”
Fort Payne running back Hunter Love was bothered by a hamstring aggravation throughout the first half and did not return to the game after halftime. He carried 10 times for 29 yards.
“I told (Love), ‘If you’re not 100%, I’m not playing you because we have a lot more to play for than tonight,’” Elmore said. “If this had been a playoff game with a lot on the line, I think he could’ve played, but he wouldn’t have been as effective and we felt like it was the right thing to do to rest him in the second half. Hopefully we’ll get him back next Friday.
“Obviously, when Hunter (Love) went out in the second half it limited us on what we could do offensively, but I thought our young backs did pretty well. Once we got behind more than two scores, it became difficult for me to want to keep trying to press the issue, because we have to stay healthy too.”
Dubose and Brown carried the ball for Fort Payne in place of Love. Elmore said he was glad to see them make some positive plays for their personal benefit and as a way to help the team continue developing its run game behind Love.