ASBURY — The Geraldine football team took the first step in its drive toward a 14th consecutive state playoff berth by whipping Asbury 47-0 on Thursday night in the Class 3A, Region 7 opener for both squads.
It was the first meeting between the neighbors, whose school districts are divided by the Marshall and DeKalb county lines.
Senior running back Anthony Baldwin rushed for three scores, while his classmate, Sebastian Totherow, rushed for a score and caught a touchdown pass from Bo Harper.
The Bulldogs coasted to a 41-0 halftime lead. The second half featured 10-minute quarters and a running clock.
“You’ve got the first one [region game] of the year, and you’ve got to get that notch in the ‘W’ column,” Geraldine head coach Brad Waldrop said.
“They’re all important. We preach to the kids week in and week out that this is the biggest game of your life, because it’s the next one. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or what the score is, it’s still a big win.
“Those older guys, I think they did what they were supposed tonight for the most part. We had some mistakes, you’re always going to make some mistakes, but I thought we played hard and did a pretty good job of executing.”
Baldwin capped Geraldine’s opening drive with an 8-yard touchdown run. Jose Garcia’s extra point made it 7-0 with 7:06 to go in the first period.
A long run by Zane Williams gave Geraldine a first-and-goal on its next series. Baldwin finished off the series with a 6-yard scoring run at the 3:46 mark. Garcia kicked it 14-0.
On the first play after the kickoff, Troy Willoughby recovered an Asbury fumble. Totherow ran 5 yards to the end zone at the 3:27 mark, and Garcia added the point-after.
The Bulldogs extended their advantage to 27-0 when Harper tossed a 26-yard TD pass to Totherow with 11:15 to play in the second period.
Less than two minutes later, the Bulldogs took over at Asbury’s 35-yard line following a punt. Baldwin broke loose for a touchdown on first down, and Garcia’s PAT expanded the lead to 34-0.
A holding penalty wiped out Williams’ 5-yard TD run with 4:47 left in the second. Asbury’s defense held and forced the Bulldogs to turn it over on downs as the Rams’ 7.
On the next snap, Geraldine’s Carlos Mann recovered a fumble at the 9. Drew Fowler swept around right end for a TD on first-and-goal, and Garcia’s extra point pushed the Bulldogs’ margin to 41-0 with 4:17 remaining.
The only touchdown of the second half occurred in the third quarter, when the Bulldogs’ Erik Garcia raced 25 yards at the 5:29 mark.
Geraldine used eight ball carriers. Garcia led the way with 54 yards on three carries, followed by Williams with 48 on two rushes. Baldwin ran six times for 46 yards.
Fowler paced Geraldine’s defense with six tackles. Willoughby made five stops, and Ed Hernandez had three and one fumble recovery.
Asbury head coach Chris Williams is in his second season. It’s the Rams’ fifth year of varsity competition and their first in Class 3A.
“Coach Williams is doing a good job,” Waldrop said. “It’s a young program and they’re trying to build something. I don’t care who you are — when you start a football program, it takes a while. It doesn’t just happen.
“At Geraldine, this is our 100th year as a school. I’m not even sure about Asbury. I know they haven’t been a K-12 long. I’ve seen them on film the last couple of years, and it looks like they get a little better every year. They’ve just got to keep chopping wood.”
On Sept. 11, the Bulldogs travel to 5A Sardis for a nonregion matchup. The Lions have won three of the last four games in the series.
“I like playing local people,” Waldrop said. “The more local people you play, you can kind of build a rivalry.
“You want to play those people you’re going to see 20 years down the road and try to have bragging rights. You don’t always get bragging rights, but you try to. Gives the kids something a little extra to play for.”